There are two aspects to the latest award of a combined sentence of 33 years of imprisonment to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed by an anti-terrorism court last week. First, obviously relates to a new approach towards dealing with terrorism and home-grown militancy as Pakistan has been accused of adopting a dual policy regarding treatment of such militants in the past. Second is stated to be effects of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The international pressure is already mounting up on Islamabad to take a tough stand against banned outfits. Therefore, the award of sentence can be attributed as a bid by Pakistan to avoid being put on a global terror financing watch list. Lately, Pakistan is taking a tough stand against ‘homegrown militancy’ and is willing to follow the UN’s resolutions against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) while the Punjab government had already banned these two charities linked to Hafiz Saeed. Although, it is heartening to see that the government is paying attention to the horrifyingly escalating threat of terrorism in this country, there has historically been a gap between writ and implementation as far as policy is concerned. It remains to be seen whether the imprisonment sentence is implemented in its true sense. Already, the court verdict has been delivered after much delay, which shows the inherent flaws in the justice system. The government should have pursued the case in accordance with the law while conforming to the due prosecution process. The government needs to work on removing all inherent flaws in the judicial system. There should not be any discrimination between any accused, especially those who are found involved in terror-related cases and are accused of committing brutal crimes against humanity.
The JuD chief, who is accused of ‘masterminding’ the Mumbai terror attacks, should have been dealt with as per the law. It is high time that Pakistan should get rid of its policy of treating ‘extremists’ as ‘strategic assets.’ The tough stand against defunct organizations like JuD comes after years of pressure on Pakistan to put Hafiz Saeed on trial and could ease recently escalating tensions with a neighbour India. Hafiz Saeed had been accused by the United States and India of ‘masterminding’ the 2008 attacks on India’s financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people. Although Hafiz Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s stance on the issue had remained unclear for the past one decade and Hafiz Saeed was allowed to roam freely throughout Pakistan. The US has alleged that the Jamaat-ud Dawa is a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). In the light of mounting international pressure after recent development, it is crucial for Pakistan to exterminate all militants that are capable of conducting future terror attacks within the country and abroad to prevent further casualties. The struggle against terrorism that ostensibly everyone from the military to the political class and the public are now united behind, requires at the very least consistency in policy in a departure from the duality that attended our approach in the past.