The saga of Jamatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s turbulent relationship with the courts seems to be never-ending. Right now, the pendulum seems to shift in Saeed’s favour as an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on Monday granted pre-arrest bail to Saeed and three others in a case pertaining to the outfit’s alleged illegal use of land for its seminary.

Asides from the case on illegal use of land, the odds may be in Saeed’s favour in his terrorism cases as well. A few days ago, Saeed and his seven aides had approached the Lahore High Court challenging a case carrying charges of terror financing lodged by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) by ‘wrongly’ showing them as members of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). For a moment it seemed unlikely that the LHC would accept the petition, yet yesterday, the LHC issued notices and a two-member bench of the LHC asked the parties to submit their replies within two weeks.

These turn of events are disappointing and surprising. They are surprising because, at the start of the month, it seemed like the Pakistani authorities had announced a crackdown against Hafiz Saeed and terror financing. The counter-terrorism department had announced in early July that it had launched 23 cases against Saeed and 12 aides for using five trusts to collect funds and donations for LeT. While the ATC bail and the LHC petition might not amount to much and the crackdown on Saeed may continue to happen with rigour, these series of actions reflect how vulnerable the accountability process against Saeed may be.

These events are disappointing because they might not factor in successfully for Pakistan’s international image and relations with other countries, at a time when we need to establish our credibility. The crackdown on Saeed occurred when the opportunity arrived for Pakistan and the United States to rebuild their relations on a positive footing; the US declared the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a terrorist organisation, and Donald Trump invited Imran Khan to Washington for talks, both huge diplomatic successes.

In this happening time, it was a diplomatic masterstroke to crackdown on Saeed. It was a good way to improve our relations with India and to balance out any animosity that may arise because of the USA and BLA situation. Most fundamentally, it would improve Pakistan’s standing in front of FATF (Financial Action Task Force), which has long put pressure to curtail Saeed’s economic activities.

Hopefully, these bails are minor ongoings of the court process and do not imply that the scrutiny on Saeed is over. If we are truly adopting a soft attitude towards Saeed’s case, then it would be a tempting of fate, or to put it more aptly, a tempting of FATF.