Hafiz Saeed on terror list: Move an attempt to improve Pakistan's image, not goodwill gesture towards India

How many bomb blasts do you need before you decide to take action against someone you suspect is a threat to your safety and that of your people? Someone who has been gadding around your country because you gave him harbour and now you are not so sure.

Pakistan suffered eight separate incidents in the past month before finally placing 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed's name on the global terror list after putting him under house arrest last month.

That Defence Minister Khawaja Asif would incur the wrath of Saeed supporters for giving in to India and be accused as a New Delhi stooge immediately after the action was a given. At the Munich Security Conference, he said that Hafiz is a threat to the country.

These pro-Hafiz elements will not see the damage that the blasts in Lahore and the Sindh’s Sufi stronghold have done to Pakistan. The JuD leader has been roaming freely in Pakistan with a $10 million bounty on his head.

Hafiz Saeed. File photo. AFP

Hafiz Saeed. File photo. AFP

No one caught him then so what’s with the timing? Somewhere in all this, the new military chief, General Qamar Bajwa has brought a new dynamic into play. Already in trouble for being (mis) quoted as saying 'be more democratic like India', Bajwa seems to have been incensed by the attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan which killed 77, the General has upped the ante against militant groups.

What with this nation being a ‘possible’ if not a ‘probable’ on the Trump hit list, the Pakistan Defence Minister has not taken this action to please India. In fact, it would naïve of us to conclude that this registration of Saeed on the global terrorist list is some sort of reaffirmation of faith or a goodwill gesture to India. It is more an effort to improve the image of the country at a time when even neutral nations are beginning to have grave doubts about Pakistan being the world’s number one host for terrorists.

So when Asif said that the move was ‘in the larger interest of the country’ he meant it. Islamabad is belatedly realizing that it is being hurt in the pocket and cannot afford to keep snakes in its backyard without the risk of being bitten. The snakes have proliferated and now are out of control.

The Saeed concession has another reason to it. Not the most vital but one that could see the Pakistan Cricket League finals slated for Lahore next week needing to prove that it means business in rounding up the bad guys.

It is a matter of prestige to get foreign players from several nations to enter Pakistan as VIP state guests with top flight security status for each player and use them as ambassadors who will be choked with hospitality and go back home and tell media things are not that bad.

With 50 cricketers from around the world promising to give a helping hand this is a major PR move through sport and a finals held in the country with foreign players involved after an eight-year drought where every playing nation save Zimbabwe has refused to tour has to be capitalised upon.

The main question now is what next? Hand over Hafiz to India? Try him in Pakistan? Keep the pressure on as window dressing till things blow over?

Extract from him a promise to back off, lie low and disappear under an unspoken protection agreement…a quid pro quo…

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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2017 16:55:12 IST

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