- The crackdown should extend to other untouchables as well
The timing of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah chief Hafiz Saeed Ahmed’s conviction for money-laundering appears a little suspicious, taking place about a month before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s meeting in Paris next month. Hafiz Saeed has been often enough picked up, mostly because the government wishes to burnish its anti-terrorism credentials, but this is the first time he has actually been convicted and sentenced. Many would feel that this is not suspicious, but overdue. Hafiz Saeed’s activities have been used by India to paint him as some sort of terrorist mastermind. Whatever damage has been done to Hafiz Saeed’s reputation, much more has been done to the country, with him being quoted as the leading example, whenever Pakistan’s enemies try to paint it, as a haven for terrorism.
It is to be hoped that the conviction is not just meant to convince the FATF that Pakistan is taking action against money-laundering, and that he will be released at the appellate stage. Like any other convict, Hafiz Saeed has every right to appeal his sentence to the high court and then the Supreme Court. However, this should not be used as a means of getting him out, but the prosecution must pursue the case with proper vigour and penetration, to satisfy the course of justice, not any foreign observer.
One reason why foreign interlocutors have expressed jubilation at the conviction is the perception that he enjoyed some kind of immunity against the laws of the state. That has been shown not to be the case. It is also time to show that there are other supposed ‘untouchables’ who can be brought within the ambit of the law. One example, the Haqqani Network, actually comprises foreign nationals, whose nationality combined with their activities, feed the narrative of Pakistan as a terrorist haven. Rather than face foreign pressure to follow our own laws, it would be much more in the national interest to ensure that the laws of the land were followed by all. If the laws are defective, let them be changed, rather than force the nation to go down the path of any winking at illegality. At the same time, there must be no assumptions about any individual or institution being in any way above the law.