The government of Punjab has withdrawn a request seeking an extension to the house arrest of banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and four of his associates under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which may lead to Hafiz Saeed’s release.

Hafiz Saeed’s name is one that is blotched in the international media and has been Pakistan’s most damaging secret. Hafiz Saeed has been accused by India and United States to be the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a claim he denies, and Saeed’s party, Lashkar-e-Taiba —which he co-founded, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, the EU and several countries. This new development of Pakistan’s government casts a serious dent on Pakistan’s image of a country striking hard on terrorists.

A major portion of the blame lies with the Interior Ministry. After an unsatisfactory performance by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who was far too soft on terrorism, it was hoped that new Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal would be more competent. Sadly, this is not proving to be the case as the Interior Minister’s reluctance to appear before the Court seems to be one of the factors for the removal of the plea for extension.

Onus of the blame is on the army as well. It was army officials who had taken the initiative to arrest Hafiz Saeed, it had even called press conferences announcing the decision. The army’s inaction now, as well as its apathy to Milli-Muslim League (MML) having major influence in the NA-120 elections, is damaging to say the least. It is ammo into the hands of hostile foreign lobbyists and a huge setback to anti-terrorism efforts.

This is one of a series of inconsistent policies towards terrorism in Pakistan; the most detrimental is the inclusion of extremist parties and dubious characters in the by-election of NA 120. Presenting a trustworthy and reliable image of Pakistan is extremely vital at this stage, with many foreign exploits taking place, such as peace talks with Afghanistan and economic dealing with China.

The withdrawal of the extension for house arrest is worse considering a heated political climate and only further consolidates Pakistan’s image in the international sphere as unreliable when it comes to combating extremism.

There seemed hope that the army and government had woken up finally after they declared decisive action against terrorists at the aftermath of pressure by the new U.S administration. However, with these inconsistent policies, that rhetoric will look no more than a political stunt.