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EFSAS Commentary

Nexus between Judiciary, Pak-Army and Hafiz Saeed


The Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-i-Azad-i-Kashmir (TAK), both Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) fronts with Hafiz Saeed as the de facto head, have been added to the lists of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) by the US State Department on April 3, 2018. The US Treasury Department also designated seven members of the MML who were acting on behalf of LeT, as terrorists.  

"The aliases - MML and TAJK - have been added to LeT’s designations as an FTO under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224” - US State Department official website.

The decision comes at a time when several political parties have started registering themselves for the General Elections to be held in Pakistan later this year. The MML and TAK will face difficulties in registering themselves as ‘political parties’ with the aim to contest elections. After the Foreign Office of Pakistan confirmed in February 2018, that the country is set to be added to the watchlist of countries where banned militant outfits have allegedly been raising funds, these designations pose a new challenge to the Government and the Election Commission of Pakistan on whether they will allow the MML and TAK to participate during the Elections of 2018. However, the Courts of Pakistan seem to think on different lines as on the same day that the United States amended the designation of TAK and MML as fronts of the terrorist organization, LeT, the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered the Government of Pakistan “...not to harass Hafiz Saeed and to allow him to continue with his ‘social welfare activities’ until further order...”. It is pertinent to note that the same Court freed Saeed from house arrest in November 2017, which drew widespread international condemnation.

Nathan A. Sales, coordinator for counter-terrorism at the US Department of State said that, if the Government of Pakistan and the election commission allow Hafiz Saeed to contest with MML on the next elections of 2018, it will be seen as a direct confrontation with the United States.

"Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The US supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence” - Nathan A. Sales.

Hafiz Saeed has been named as the mastermind of the Mumbai attack in 2008 in which more than 160 people lost their lives. After the Mumbai attack, carried out by LeT, the international community, led by the United Nations and the United States declared Hafiz Saeed, a Global Terrorist and in 2012, the US placed a $10 million bounty on him. Hafiz Saeed’s LeT has also been responsible for terrorists activities in Jammu & Kashmir since 1993.

In July 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office, which many saw as a coup through the judiciary, engineered by the powerful military establishment of the country. From Field Marshal Ayub Khan (President of Pakistan from 1958-1969) to General Pervez Musharraf (President of Pakistan from 2001-2008) and in between, the Pakistani Army has a history of working in tandem with the Courts of Pakistan, aimed at legitimizing the military’s unconstitutional actions. Heavily relying on the ‘necessity doctrine’, time again, after- and during military take-overs, courts in Pakistan have acted as judicial-tanks shielding the powerful generals.  

Nawaz Sharif’s ouster and the role of the courts in the case of Hafiz Saeed are very interesting, to say the least, and could very well prove to be a dramatic change in the Army’s strategy. In Pakistan, the Army has a history of overshadowing the political landscape and the civilian government in reality has very limited authority or control over critical matters of national importance such as foreign policy and security. Courts have been instrumental in engineering political outcomes and recent developments suggest that it has occurred to the generals that the courts could be more than just reactive after the Army’s actions; They could also very well play a pre-emptive role in guarding ‘strategic interests’, vital for the country’s foreign policy and security.   

For the military establishment, foreign policy and security also include Hafiz Saeed, LeT, Maulana Masood Azhar and his Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Syed Salahuddin with his Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and many more, as these groups are considered ‘strategic assets’ and are used to advance the country’s strategic objectives vis-á-vis Afghanistan, India and Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir. This 'Double Game', where the Army distinguishes between ‘good and bad’ terrorists, has been one of the main reasons that the international community, including the US have designated Pakistan as a conflicted ally in the ‘War on Terror’.

In October 2017, Pakistan Army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor said, “...That the State was working on a ‘mainstreaming’ programme to induct members of armed groups into the political process...”. This would mean that terrorists and terrorists-linked groups would be integrated into the country’s mainstream politics with the aim, according to the Major-General during his press conference, "...to develop a constructive role for them…”. This integration plan was followed by MML’s and other Islamist groups’, foray into politics.

Apparently, the Pakistani Army has taken its game of ‘good and bad’ terrorists to a new level. ‘Good’ terrorists are set to become the lawmakers of tomorrow; The corridors of law, the courts, will ensure that.