‘Pakistan state system will never allow prosecution of Hafeez Saeed’
Pakistan military expert Ayesha Siddiqa tells Kunal Majumder that US’ bounty announcement on Mumbai 26/11 attack accused Hafeez Saeed is part of the larger negotiation between Pakistan and the US on Afghanistan
How do you read into the announcement of $10 million bounty on Hafeez Saeed by the US at this particular juncture?
They (US) are trying to negotiate something (with Pakistan). I don’t know how far they’ll get with it. If you talk to people in the US they say things like the decision was taken some time back, it was coming etc etc. But I think the timing is fairly interesting and important. It comes at a time when I don’t think they’ll be able to achieve much.
Do you see any significance in the presence of US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in New Delhi when the announcement was made? Is the US trying to pacify India?
That could be a coincidence. I’m not seeing conspiracy there. But I think what’s important is that they may be putting pressure or maybe not. Maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe they’re trying to signal Pakistan on the NATO supply route and on Afghanistan. I’m not saying, as some people suggested, just taking them long to decide (on Hafeez Saeed). People say US based it on newer information, which was collected post May 2 or maybe by Raymond Davis and other agents operating in the country. I think it’s the timing that’s important. They chose this time and I think we have to see it in the context of Pakistan-US relations and the whole NATO supply thing and, of course, the end game in Afghanistan. This is the time when they think it’s feasible to put pressure on Pakistan to draw out the maximum. This is the game that both states are playing.
Saeed claims that US is after him due to his opposition of the NATO thing. The US, however, clarified that it was primarily the Mumbai attacks that made it take such a step.
Governments can say whatever. But I’m not going to assume that just because the US government has issued a statement it entirely represents the reality of the situation. They could have done it earlier; they could have done it later. But they chose this time. This time is interesting because it can be played up by Hafiz Saeed and others.
What do you think of the Pakistan government’s stand on Saeed? Do they have evidence? Do they not have enough evidence as it claims publicly?
Even if they have enough evidence, the system will not allow for the presentation of that evidence in a court of law. I don’t think the entire state system is very favorable. This is the excuse which will be used eventually that where is the evidence to indict you. The problem is that the state doesn’t allow for anything better than this.
Why do you think the system in Pakistan doesn’t allow his prosecution?
Because the state is sympathetic. Look at parallel cases. Look at case of Malik Ishaq. Even when there was some evidence the entire system worked against it. There are two issues here. One is that the entire judicial system and the common law both in India and Pakistan is so problematic. By comparison, look at what happened when Masood Azhar (founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed) was in India–the entire judicial system was waited and waited and waited. In the same fashion, our judicial system waited and waited. In other cases too the evidence was sought but also the fact is that the judicial system is sympathetic. It has over the years turned more towards Islamism. There’s enough evidence to that. So within the judiciary there is sympathy, and at the third level the state is sympathetic so evidence will not be produced. Those who are sources of evidence like the police will not be allowed to present that evidence so its end of story. So ultimately, what can be argued is that because there is no evidence and because the judges don’t find him a criminal. Therefore where is the evidence? And when you get into the realm of secret services then, of course, every country will be protecting their information on the basis that it comprises their own security assets. It is a vicious circle.
Even after this bounty announcement and growing American pressure, do you think anything is going to happen to the 26/11 case?
I don’t think anything is going to happen. This is tied with other negotiations. Negotiations between the military establishment and the US. Negotiations between the political class and the US. There’s one more thing, there has been a statement from the US saying, “We have done it. It’s not a bounty to catch him, it’s a bounty to bring evidence against him”– very shoddy work, I must say. Now they are saying it is not a bounty on his head. How can you have a bounty against someone against whom you now claim you are seeking evidence? But my reading of that would be that it’s almost signalling to the political government and even larger society that bring evidence and there will be money and things will improve etc etc. I really wonder how it’s going to play out. If the Americans get conceited about it, the question I would want to ask is will it end in an economic embargo? This is a very serous signal undoubtedly from the US. But the way it’s playing out it doesn’t seem like something that could bring results.
Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.