Action Against Hafiz Saeed: Why Pakistan Keeps Getting Away with Murder

New Delhi: Pakistan has once again acted against 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and his institutions, the Jamat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation by declaring them as terrorist entities.

This move is eerily similar to action taken exactly a year ago when Saeed was placed under house arrest on 30th Jan 2017.

The impetus for this decision is the upcoming meeting of the Financial Action Task Force or FATF which is a UN mandated body that looks at the financial networks of proscribed individuals and entities under various UN Sanctions Committees.

If the FATF finds the progress of countries on cracking down on these financial networks used by terrorist organizations tardy, then it can put such countries under a ‘grey list’ or worse, under a ‘black list’. Then it becomes much harder for countries to access multilateral donor agencies and financial institutions to access money either for servicing their own sovereign debts or for international projects being undertaken in those respective countries.

Pakistan has about 3 billion dollars of debt which it has to service this coming summer, which explains why it doesn’t want to be ‘grey listed’ by the FATF.

Already, the US along with UK and France have said on record that they will move the FATF plenary meeting in Paris next week to grey list Pakistan. China could still bail out its ‘all weather friend’ Pakistan but, unlike in the UN Security Council, no single member in the FATF enjoys veto power. It has to be a majority of five decision. This explains why Pakistan is scared and why it is now moving against the likes of Hafiz Saeed.

But here’s the problem. None of these actions can be legally enforced by any international statutory body. The different agencies under the UN operate under the UN charter where it is up to the member states concerned to take action as they deem fit, in their ‘national interest’. So Pakistan cannot be ostracized or penally made to pay a price for allowing a UN proscribed man to get state patronage.

A classic example is the recent UNCLOS verdict in the dispute between China and Philippines over the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Huangyan Island. Though the UN tribunal ruled against China, China is under no legal obligation to implement the order. Hence, China can walk away as though nothing happened. The same applies to all UN agencies. The onus is on individual countries under the umbrella of the UN.

Though Hafiz Saeed has been proscribed since 2008, right after the 26/11 attacks, he continues to be a free man, despite brief periods of arrest or detention. Ultimately the Pakistani government through its prosecuting agencies does not show any resolve or intent to collect material evidence to justify legal action against Saeed. That’s why he gets away with reprieves from court, just like when he was released in late November last year.

But now with Trump’s blunt talk and impending FATF action Pakistan is under pressure to show it is acting against proscribed individuals and entities. But the greater pressure is going to be domestically, the upcoming elections which could undercut Nawaz Sharif’s party the PML(N) after his own dismissal by the Supreme Court last year. In an election year, no party can afford to be seen on the wrong side of the mullahs. Pakistan, as has always been its perennial bane, is once again caught between Allah and America. Which way will the third A, the Army go?

| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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