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OPINION | Hafiz Saeed's Political Entry is Wake up Call for Secular Forces in Pakistan

No doubt Pakistan has come to be one country worst victim of American policies that bask in creating uncertainties in areas of their geo-strategic interests.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan |

Updated:August 9, 2017, 1:09 PM IST
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OPINION | Hafiz Saeed's Political Entry is Wake up Call for Secular Forces in Pakistan
File photo of Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafeez Saeed. (Photo: Reuters)
What an irony it is for Pakistan that having suffered most in the war on terror, it remains permanently pilloried in the eyes of successive American administrations as the villain of the piece. Its immediate neighbours—India, Afghanistan and Iran—have their own grouses on different counts.

In view of independent analysts, fault lies within the parameters of its foreign policy, domestic political, religious contradictions and the perception that its establishment remains committed to running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.

Once considered most trusted ally of the United States east of Suez, it has after sixty years down the road come to be Washington’s favourite whipping boy. Trump Administration is singularly hostile to it. Its officials that regularly visit Pakistan while uttering few ceremonial praises for its sacrifices in war against terror, don’t hesitate in blowing hotter than before down its necks most brazenly conveying that Trump Administration would not accept its role as it is and would like it to do more in eliminating terrorism and helping it restore stability in Afghanistan.

No doubt Pakistan has come to be one country worst victim of American policies that bask in creating uncertainties in areas of their geo-strategic interests. Its pleadings that Islamabad itself is paying through its nose for the post-Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan seems to fall like seeds on the stony ground. Except of course one person in the previous American Administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton no one responsible in America for Pakistan’s sad plight had the courage to accept its responsibility for creating the Jihadis-turned Taliban-turned terrorists wreaking havoc within Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region.

Wiser counsel always believes that before finding faults in external factors, forces, geo-strategic currents and cross-currents one should look deeply within to charter a correct course and seek a sense of direction that avoids pitfalls in seeking pastures new. Unfortunately, it has come to be a habit among the mangers of the state that instead of thoroughly investigating and analyzing factors behind an untoward incident, they have instant answer in the blame game on external elements rather than getting to the roots of the problem within.

Divergent religious forces with bigoted agendas of their own after having opposed the idea of Pakistan and its founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah found a safe heaven mainly in the province of Punjab. Though they had different notions as how to practice their brand/sect of religion, they were united in subverting MAJ’s secular, democratic vision that had no place for religion in the business of the state.

These elements readily found common cause with the power troika hell bent in replacing Pakistan’s secular raison d etre with the idea of a security state—an all purpose kit available for the Americans to exploit in the cold as well dismantling of the Soviet Union.

We have had Jamaat-e-Islami and various other religious groups finding a favourable playing field in Pakistan funded by their Sunni and Shia financiers. The birth of Jihadis and their subsequent branching off have sprouted in various shapes all over now causing havoc with human kind. Pakistan and more so province of Punjab became an epicenter for the pursuit of what they call a theocratic state. In the post 9-11 Jihadi organizations such as Jesh Muhammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Tayaba etc became corollaries to Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Like previously, the present American administration firmly believes that establishment in Pakistan has a deep nexus with such groups especially one led by Hafiz Saeed of JuD running his training and recruiting camp in Muridke in Punjab. Though he is supposed to be incarcerated, his opponents say that he is in protective custody. His Muridke Centre is overly active in business as usual.

Knowing well the fact that Saeed is to Americans what could a bull be in a china shop. They have put prize money on his head; his organization is banned and prohibited to collect funds. And any bilateral talks would remain incomplete if he is not mentioned. To add insult to Washington’s injury or in his sublime audacity, his organization has decided to plunge in mainstream politics by establishing its political party—Milli Muslim League-- to be registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan ready to participate in 2018 elections.

With former President and ex-Army Chief General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf as his avowed mentor—one could smell a rat all over. Now its electoral importance to PML-N has also come out clear as manifested in its persistent reluctance to stop funding to JuD’s charity.

While its leader Hafiz Saeed remains detained, MML will be led by his second-in-command JuD official Saifullah Khalid. Its agenda is to convert Pakistan into 'a real Islamic and welfare state'. It will provide its supporters protection and better cover to maneuverability without falling under the preview of American pressure for an effective crack down on LeT and JuD.

Not only it is a red rag for the Americans, it is no less for the Indians who insist that he had been the alleged mastermind behind the Mumbai terrorist onslaught in May 2008. One wonders how Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s desire to build bridges with India will fare with the emergence of MML.

Notwithstanding the possibility of MML securing some electoral seats, its establishment at this critical juncture adds a sinister dimension to Pakistan’s murky politics. It is time to wake up for all secular and liberal forces to join hands to effectively blunt moves to inject sectarian poison in the body politics of Pakistan. Any move to impose bigotry in the name of Islam be nipped in the bud. A little late would be too late.

(The author is former High Commissioner of Pakistan and a veteran journalist)
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