Ever since the occurrence of 9/11 in 2001, the Indians have been quick to exploit the terror card in turning the screw on Pakistan; particularly, in equating the freedom struggle in Kashmir with a terrorist movement and foisting terrorism as the top agenda item in bilateral negotiations. With the attack on the Indian Parliament following the Twin Tower attack in New York by two months, the Indians created a 12/13 of their own to justify the ordering of the biggest ever mobilisation of forces against Pakistan, which was ultimately rolled back after 10 months following a hair-raising standoff bearing nuclear overtones. Without any substantive evidence, the Indian military formations were on the roll towards Pakistan’s western borders within 10 days of the attack; and yet after five years when the Indian Supreme Court delivered the final verdict there was no mention of Pakistan’s involvement in the event.
In a dangerous development, the US, with eyes on the pullout of forces planned for 2014, have opted for the much repeated Indian model of pushing Pakistan into a corner. It is in this context that the declaration of $10 million head money on Hafiz Saeed for his alleged involvement in planning the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, 2008, poignantly points to the US-India collaboration to arm-twist Pakistan.
From another perspective, it reveals the US failure in finding a smoking gun - evidence capable of holding out in a court of law - to indict Hafiz Saeed; vindicating Pakistani position that the Indians, despite exchanging half a dozen dossiers on Mumbai attacks, have passed nothing of substance and the US, despite interrogating David Headley, have come across no tangible leads to confront Pakistan.
The Indian leadership, following the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, went into an overdrive in castigating Pakistan over ‘cross border terrorism’; even of state implication, without providing any tangible evidence that could positively guide Pakistani investigators. The tirade was built around involvement of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) under the patronage of Pakistani agencies and leading to demand for the extradition of Saeed and his fictitious collaborators. India promised to provide supporting evidence in the shape of dossiers, and in quick time, but as they say there are many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip.
Notwithstanding a high-pitched rhetoric, the first ‘dossier’ on the Mumbai attacks arrived 40 days after the incident and carried little of substance; providing ‘information’ rather than any ‘intelligence’ to act upon. As many as half a dozen dossiers have been exchanged since, but little evidence has emerged to pursue the cases in courts of law against those accused, including Hafiz Saeed. It stands out as a measure of the casual attitude of the Indian authorities that in the list of DNA reports of 10 terrorists given to Pakistan on March 13, 2009, in the second ‘dossier’, two different DNA reports were attributed to the same person.
Another dossier mentioned the statement of Ajmal Kasab as an enclosure, but none was to be found due to what was later claimed to be a clerical error; only after Pakistan indicated to the laughable gaffe. These lapses serve to underscore the lukewarm earnestness in which the ‘intelligence’ related to the Mumbai incident is being shared with Pakistan; despite India’s unceasing demands, duly backed by the USA, for higher levels and faster pace of cooperation.
The timing of the State Department’s imposition of the bounty on Hafiz Saeed - exactly a day after the announcement of President Asif Zardari’s private visit to India on April 8 and the Indian platform from which it was declared - has only served to intensify the impression that there is an Indo-US collusion of interests. The US Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, announced placing Hafiz Saeed and Taiba’s co-founder Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice listing on April 2 during a four-day visit to India. The following day, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the bounty on the two men “had everything to do with Mumbai.” These unsubstantiated accusations have been sealed by Hillary Clinton’s recent assertions, while departing from New Delhi, that Islamabad was providing “a launching pad” for terrorists; adding that al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was hiding in Pakistan.
Saeed has been repeatedly nominated by India as the mastermind behind all major incidents of terror without providing relevant evidence and the US seems to be in cahoots. He was there in the Indian Parliament attack case only to be exonerated through absence of any reference to him in the final Indian Supreme Court verdict in 2004. He was placed under house arrest after the 2006 Mumbai bombings of commuter trains, which caused a carnage even larger in scale than the terror incident in 2008 - only to be released months later when it was established that the Indian Mujahedeen, rather than the LeT was involved. He was again arrested following the Mumbai massacre in 2008 and was released seven months later after the Lahore High Court freed him for lack of any evidence.
Now the State Department has finally provided the vindication for Pakistan, and Saeed by issuing a clarification that the reward money - at par with Mullah Omar - was not for locating him, but providing actionable evidence that can withstand legal scrutiny. This has bared the hollowness of the Indo-US claims. Both the US and India want to frame him and through brazen blackmail on his account harness Pakistan’s unquestioned support to Washington’s orchestrated scenario in South Asia in years to come. No one in Pakistan has sympathy for anyone dipping his hands in innocent blood on whatever account or ideology, yet no man should go to the gallows for uncommitted crimes either!
The writer is a freelance columnist.