Trump Finds Hafiz Saeed..

Pakistan has (once again, for the nth time) arrested Hafiz Saeed . This time the charge is “terror financing”. It should be clear to anyone who bothers to read a few newspapers that he was not hiding anywhere and did not need to be “found”. He has always lived and worked openly in Pakistan and this is not the first time he has been arrested (and may not be the first time he is let go after the dust settles and the IMF funds arrive). It is also worth noting that the charges have nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks and that the current military regime in Pakistan will not even admit that those attacks came from Pakistan. In fact their vast PR apparatus has successfully convinced many educated Pakistanis that the whole thing was an Indian (or Israeli) false flag operation and the attackers did not even come from Pakistan. While this is not the official stance of the government of Pakistan (which actually investigated the attackers to some extent under international pressure, and produced detailed evidence linking the attackers to Pakistan, including details such as where the boat was purchased and such like, and several people have been in jail at some point for their involvement in this attack), the domestic propaganda and management of witnesses etc  has been so effective that I regularly get whatsapp messages from friends “accusing” some Pakistani journalist or TV station of being Indian agents because they have said at some point that the sole surviving terrorist (Ajmal Kasab) was a Pakistani. As an aside, it would be interesting if someone can ask a senior member of the current military regime to publicly state on record that Ajmal Kasab was Pakistani. I doubt that anyone (except maybe Trump) can actually do this (i.e. I doubt that any senior official can come on TV and admit this.. it would be too far at variance with the domestic propaganda that ISPR has put out).

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.jpg
Ajmal Kasab shooting civilians in Shivaji Train station

In 2014 Hafiz Saeed actually held a conference of his (renamed) Jihadi organization at the “minar e Pakistan” (Pakistan memorial) in Lahore and rode around on a horse to feel close to the spirit of the original Arab conquerors he idealizes.

Image result for hafiz saeed horse
Hafiz Saeed riding a horse at the JUD’s convention in Lahore in 2014

So anyway, everyone knew where Hafiz Saeed was, and even this latest arrest does not mention the Mumbai attacks, so either Trump is remarkably ignorant (possible) or he is just playing to his base, who love the whole “Western” movie ethos of wanted posters, dead or alive, manhunt, etc and finally, Sheriff Trump riding to capture the “bad guys”.  I find it hard to believe that even Trump can be ignorant enough to not know all this, so I vote for “bullshitting his base” as the most likely explanation for this tweet.

But while all this may be just show to get Pakistan off the FATF hook and to get some much needed cash (and maybe even weapons) from Trump, it is still hard to say who is conning who here. At one level Pakistan has “successfully” conned the US for 17 years and received billions in aid while supporting the Taliban and hosting multiple other Jihadi organizations. But it is hard to see this as a “win” for Pakistan. While Pakistan’s military regime (and this issue has ALWAYS been handled by the army, no civilian was allowed to butt in.. Mian Nawaz Sharif lost power for trying to minimally rein in this policy) has played these games and thinks it is winning, it has actually presided over Pakistan falling steadily behind India and even Bangladesh in every economic and social indicator. It would have been much better to swallow the bitter pill in 2001 and actually switch sides and give up on Jihad. By now Pakistan would be outperforming rickety India and even “rising star” Bangladesh in many areas. Instead, we have wasted a generation trying to play these games and may not have anything to show for it if this round of show arrests does not even get us off the FATF grey list (or worse, gets us on the blacklist).
Indians are (unsurprisingly) not delighted with this latest show of successful Pakistani conmanship (or even genuine change of heart), but in the proverbial long run, who gets the last laugh? India, a rising economic power in the world, or Pakistan, playing strategic games with multiple sponsors and just staying half a shaky step ahead of its multiple creditors?


Prime Minister Imran Khan on Pakistan National Day, in March.

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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

23 thoughts on “Trump Finds Hafiz Saeed..”

  1. Hi Omar, interesting post, but I’m curious as to your rationale (and related evidence) behind the statement, “By now Pakistan would be outperforming rickety India and even “rising star” Bangladesh in many areas.” Do you mean economically?

  2. ” In fact their vast PR apparatus has successfully convinced many educated Pakistanis that the whole thing was an Indian (or Israeli) false flag operation and the attackers did not even come from Pakistan. ”

    I once went on reddit Pakistan (before the rise of twitter warriors and all) and asked this question. This was just after Tariq Khosa investigation. The initial replies were on expected lines “Of course he is a pakistani, but the state/army had nothing to do with it”
    Then came folks “Who said he is a muslim, haven’t you seen Kasab’s video praying to Bhagwan instead of Allah, he was nabbed in Nepal etc etc.

    By the end of it even the initial commentators became defensive and like “yeah perhaps it was a false flag operation after all”

    1. During the early ISIS days it was common for Muslims on social-media to share images of the Jihadists praying the wrong way, which was supposed to be proof this group was a CIA/Mossad creation, hastily assembled to further destabilize the Middle-East and give Islam a bad name.

  3. Switching sides in 2001 wasn’t an option. Jihad and Islamism is entrenched at nearly every level of Pakistani society. Even the mildest gestures of support for the US invasion saw Pakistan face incredible blow-back in KPK, which they still haven’t fully recovered from. A complete attempt at switching sides may have resulted in a proper civil war.

    But still, Pakistan may come out on top if things proceed as they have been. The Taliban have outlasted NATO, and more or less have the Afghan government on the ropes. While any eventual peace will involve some power-sharing with non-Taliban elements, its clear that the eventual regime that ends up properly ruling Afghanistan will favor Pakistan over India politically, and drop claims to Pakistani territory (KPK specifically). This would be a huge win for Pakistan all things considered.

    1. It may be a win for the Pakistani security establishment but it isn’t clear how helping the Taliban control Afghanistan would be a win for Pakistani civil society.

      1. Its not so much that a Taliban-Afghanistan will be good for Pakistan, as much as its the fact that a NATO-Afghanistan would be terrible for Pakistan.

        Also, this is an Indian trope that Pakistan’s military establishment and its civil society have differing goals. 95% of the time they do not. Both view liberating Muslim Afghanistan from Western-NATO occupation as a worth while goal on its own. The benefits of removing a would-be Indian ally and likely future safe-haven for separatist insurgents (Balochi and Pashtun) sweeten the deal.

        There’s also the fact that the Taliban won’t ever give up, meaning unending instability in KPK. If the Taliban win, a sense of normalcy can return to the region, and Pakistan can crush the last of the Pakistani-Taliban who to this point could always flee into chaotic Afghanistan for reprieve, or haggle for leniency by appealing to the Afghan-Taliban.

      2. What Indiathings says abut civil military relationship is truth. This non existent divide is a trope employed by Indians left liberals (and western liberals) who wanted to create a favorable opinion (within India/West) by trying to separate “Pakistani people” and “Pakistani army” which does not exist on the ground.

        For all practical purpose Pakistan army/ISI/Jihadis/Islamist=Pakistani people=Pakistani state.

        1. Of course, unlike you two I don’t have the magic ability to divine the desires of the Pakistani people.

          I was merely going by the fact that the Pakistani military feels compelled – every few years – to discipline errant civil administrations elected – presumably – by the people of Pakistan.

    2. I am not sure of the KPK thing though. Accepting the Duraand line is a no go area even for Pakistan backed taliban. In the 90s when taliban was practically Pakistan “s lackey they refused to accept the Durand line. I am not sure taliban will ever have that much power in Afghanistan to touch that issue.

      It’s for all practical purpose be like the LOC in India – Pakistan case. All Indian parties know that realistically that’s the border but they still pay lip service to PAkistan”s Kashmir as Indian territory

      1. The Taliban accept that KPK is part of Pakistan, they are just against a proper walled border. Which is fine with Pakistan, as they have no issue with an open Afghanistan border provided a friendly government is on the other end, and the country is at peace.

        The NATO-aligned Afghan government rejects the border because it believes KPK should be part of Afghanistan. Big difference.

        1. Bro , no one in Afghanistan who is of any political consequence (and wants be of political significance) accepts the Durand line. As i said they might be powerless to do anything or even (in their mind) grudgingly accept KPK as part of Pakistan but they wont ever publicly accept that. Nor will any Afghanistan Govt ever accept that. We all know De-jure and De-facto are separate things

          “Ironically, during its rule in Kabul the Taliban refused to endorse the Durand Line despite pressure from Islamabad. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also resisted, calling it “a line of hatred that raised a wall between the two brothers.”

          1. Bro, you didn’t read what I said.

            Nobody accepts the Durand line, but there’s a big difference between not accepting it because you believe there should be open borders (Taliban), and not accepting it because you believe KPK should be part of Afghanistan (NATO-gov).

  4. Economic growth was always going to be a challenge in South Asia, since the region is far from developed markets in both physical and cultural terms (except English speaking folks). India got a lucky break due to its fortuitous English proficiency, and managed to ride a wave of globalization.

    My question regarding the Pak-India divergence is this. At what point will we reach inflexion ? The choice of isolation (especially from South and West India) that the Muslims of NW India have continuously exercised over the last century will eventually show its full impact, especially since there are few other avenues for capital/expertise to flow in. The reality that the average person in Mumbai earns three times more than in Karachi, with a growing divergence, has to hit home someday.

    Or will the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, which has in many ways disappointed Pakistan so far, manage to step in a decisive way. What do Pakistanis feel about the fact that majority of millionaires in Muslim ruled UAE are Hindus ?

    1. ” At what point will we reach inflexion ?”

      It will never reach inflection. It will only swing within a band from one extreme (near war situation) to middle (cold peace b/w 2 countries)

    2. Bro you’re way too optimistic about India. With middling growth and worsening unemployment, we’re going nowhere fast. That by itself is fixable, but there is no appetite to make the reforms we need and take advantage of our comparative advantage in unskilled labor.

      Our services sector has performed admirably, and it is true that Karachi can’t hold a candle to Mumbai. But most of India and Pakistan still lives a hardscrabble and agrarian existence, so what does it matter?

      1. In larger scheme of things India and Pakistan don’t need each other. There problems are much more internal than external. Any good relationship is like a “nice to have feature” where the political cost of attempting better relationship far out ways the benefit they might bring.

        I am not so pessimistic on India though. We are no longer going great guns of the late 2000s but I think we have reached a sort of stable equilibrium in a sense. The only thing is considering our population stable isn’t good enough, but perhaps that’s our fate in a way.

      2. I guess another way to rephrase my comment/question is, at what income differential will Pakistanis finally change their mind about confronting India. Or will Pakistan manage to get enough investment from China/Muslim world for this differential never to reach a critical proportion. Or will India never grow beyond a certain point (middle income trap) ?

        1. Money and income – real or expected – is not the only thing that moves foreign policies ; it also depends on the vision and commitments of it’s ruling elite. Pakistani ruling elite is not committed to bringing the population to modern education or an industrial state . They are committed to keeping up the confrontation with India i.e. ‘stand up to India’. Kashmir is just an excuse.

        2. “Or will Pakistan manage to get enough investment from China/Muslim world for this differential never to reach a critical proportion. ”
          Forget differential, even if there is a loss of aid/investment (highly unlikely) from USA/China, Pakistan has enough in the bank to go with the low intensity conflict in Kashmir or elsewhere. The reason is the cost, benefit ratio of various jihadist groups. They are quite cheap to maintain and cause massive damage. They will of course regulate the violence. Pakistan is willing to suffer the blow back of international community
          Whether India grows or not is irrelevant to the discussion. Either India cultivates its own sub terrain forces (and no, spying doesn’t count) or retaliates using regular forces. Barring that indefinite vigil with fewer lapses is the only thing you can do.

  5. Trump lives in his own world ; people would be laughing at him for trumpeting these bogus diplomatic achievements. Emperor is naked. Superpower run by a pea brained.

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