Pakistan's ban-ter with snakes in the backyard

Smita PrakashNope, there was no ban. They came up with some convoluted statement to pull wool over the eyes of their permanent funders, read America, but Pakistan fooled only rosy-spectacled candle-walas into believing that they had actually banned the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The JuD held rally after rally last week in open defiance to the absurd Pakistan foreign office non-announcement of a ‘ban’.

There is complete ambiguity about a ban on an organisation that has been banned several times in the past. Spokesman for former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Senator, Farhatullah Babar is quoted as having said, “There is absence of clarity. We have declared a war against militants who pose a threat to the state, but what about snakes the state nurtured in the past in its backyard hoping that they will only bite its neighbour. Are we prepared to fight them as well? Or we still think that the snakes will do our bidding and not bite us”…. unless “we have clarity on this issue the ambiguity and dithering will continue with disastrous consequences.”

defiant: In a demonstration in Islamabad yesterday, activists from the banned organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), hold placards that read ‘Muhammad’, protesting against satirical sketches of the prophet in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Despite the Pakistan foreign office announcing a ban on JuD, it held rally after rally last week. Pic/AFP
Defiant: In a demonstration in Islamabad yesterday, activists from the banned organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), hold placards that read ‘Muhammad’, protesting against satirical sketches of the prophet in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Despite the Pakistan foreign office announcing a ban on JuD, it held rally after rally last week. Pic/AFP

Supposedly on the list of ‘banned’ groups are the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Falah-i-Insaniayat Foundation headed by the bearded cleric Hafiz Saeed, the Haqqani Network, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, Ummah Tameer-I Nau, Haji Khairullah, Haji Sattar Money Exchange, Roshan Money Exchange, Rahat Limited, Al Rashid Trust and Al Akhtar trust.

But as several columnists and experts on Pakistan TV pointed out that there are hundreds of benami accounts in Pakistan, which receive and disburse slush money to terror outfits. The ban would hardly impact on the movement of money to these outfits. These benami accounts have large transactions with Gulf countries and communication is done via Skype and Viber, which the Pakistan law enforcement authorities either cannot tap or do not try to.

And about the ban on ‘foreign travel’ of individuals like Hafiz Saeed, it sounds funnier than a stand up comedy show.

An official quoted is quoted in the daily, Nation: “We have not received any instructions from the provincial government regarding the withdrawal of police guards. Some 40 police commandos are on Hafiz Saeed’s guard to provide security cover to him.”

India’s most wanted man is a VIP in Pakistan. He is invited on TV shows, he is shown deference by journalists, politicians and the Army. No sooner had the ‘ban’ been announced that Hafiz Saeed announced the formation of a new group: Tehreek-i-Hurmat-e-Rasool. Mocking the ‘banter’ of the Pakistan foreign office, Saeed said that the so-called ban would affect his pension! The man has a pension fund! The only person who put the convoluted statement in perspective is Hafiz Saeed, who clarified that the ban is a four-year-old one and that the foreign ministry was merely repeating the old statement. Nobody refuted this claim of Hafiz Saeed.

Nobody dare cross the path of clerics like Hafiz Saeed in a completely radicalised society of Pakistan where terrorists don’t even spare school children. The Peshawar school attack was an act of vengeance against military operations against terror groups in North Waziristan.

This is not a new phenomenon. In 2007, the army and intelligence agencies picked up about 500 suspects under ‘Operation Silence’ but courts acquitted them. Upon release they regrouped to establish the Ghazi Force to avenge the operation.

From seminaries across the country and in op-eds in Urdu papers, voices are already rising against anti-terror operations and decisions. The spiel is that Muslim rulers cannot take action against Muslims who are on the path of jihad because ‘Jihad Fi Sabi lillah’ or Jihad is the way of Allah. To punish jihadis is a crime and hence the rulers are guilty of siding with Kafirs, is the message to the ‘faithful’.

How long can the National Action Plan to curb terrorism in Pakistan fight such forces is something that we in India need to watch carefully. If in the next few months no punitive action is taken against banned groups, it would be all the more clear that the Nawaz Sharif government and the Pakistan Army continue the policy of using terror groups and their proxies as instruments of foreign policy.

Those in India who perpetuate the idea that PM Narendra Modi needs to come up with out of the box ideas, like maybe visit Islamabad to extend an olive branch, need to understand that Pakistan has to first figure out which way it is going. Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds makes it an international pariah. You deal with such countries with caution, not bravado.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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