ISLAMABAD - Has US President Donald Trump achieved in one week what his predecessor Barack Obama could not in eight years? This is the million-dollar question as the government moved against Hafiz Saeed Ahmed – India’s most wanted jihadist – detaining him at his Lahore residence and putting his two organisations on terror watch list.

Hafiz Saaed himself claimed in his media talk, before he was put to house arrest, that the move came because of the pressure from Trump Administration.

But reliable sources suggested that pressure was being exerted on Pakistan for a clamp down on JuD since long and it was actually the Obama Administration which did all the spadework for it.

Apparently Trump Administration is going to tap the efforts actually put in by the US under Obama’s lead.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who had been pretty lenient on the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief until now, yesterday indicated a hint in the fortunes of Hafiz Saeed.

Nisar announced during a press conference that the government would make public details of “possible action” against the JuD today (January 31).

He said that the JuD had been under observation since 2011.

Later in the evening, the cleric was put under house arrest in Lahore.

Late night, the interior ministry issued a notification to confirm action against Hafiz Saeed, who is blamed by India for orchestrating terror on its home soil.

The house arrest and Nisar Khan’s earlier statement signalled a departure from the government’s policy towards Hafiz Saeed.

Pakistani officials have earlier balked at suggestions of action against Saeed, often claiming that there was no legal ground to move against him.

The powerful establishment has also shown reluctance in dealing with him in a tough manner.

It is possible that the change in the US administration – and the attitude of the US president– have made the Pakistani authorities to buckle finally.

This looks credible as the action against the JuD chief and his organisation comes after unconfirmed reports that Trump issued a warning to Pakistan that Washington could slam sanctions on Pakistan if the JuD continued to work freely.

In 2014, the US had declared the JuD as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

The US had also announced a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed in 2012 for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks – that killed 164 people including six US nationals.

Last week, Trump banned visas for seven Muslim countries in a bid to stop “terrorists” from entering the US.

The White House maintained Pakistan would itself have to decide which way it wanted to go.

India has been pushing the US to pressurise Pakistan to ban the JuD and hand over Hafiz Saeed to New Delhi for his alleged role in terrorist activities inside India.

Pakistan until now has defended Hafiz Saeed saying there was no proof against him for involvement in terrorism.

Hafiz Saeed’s freedom has been a continuous source of tension between Pakistan and India for years.

During the ongoing friction, India had been pointing fingers at Pakistan for allegedly supporting terrorists.

India alleges the JuD is the front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit, which is blamed by New Delhi for carrying attacks inside India and supporting freedom struggle in held Kashmir.

In India Hafiz Saeed is listed on the National Investigation Agency’s “Most Wanted” list.

This is not the first time that Hafiz Saeed has been out under house arrest but each time in the past he has managed to walk free.

Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Sirajul Haq said that the decision to act against Hafiz Saeed was primarily the result of Trump’s pressure to corner Pakistan if it did not “obey” the orders.

“We should not arrest our citizens for the US. There is no case against Hafiz Saeed then why has he been arrested,” questioned the JI leader.

He said that the government seemed to have succumbed to Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pressure.

“It will be an insult if we take actions against our people for Trump or Modi’s desire. We should not sacrifice so much for a US visa,” Haq remarked citing the US president’s policy of restricting Muslims’ entry in his country.

He said that the timing of Hafiz Saeed’s arrest and action against the JuD indicated the decision was not taken in Islamabad.

“It seems a decision from Washington which was initiated in New Delhi,” Haq contended.

He said that Pakistan-US ties should be bilateral instead of unilateral.

“If we have interests with the US, of course, they too have interests here. It is give and take ... not just issuing orders from Washington,” Haq said.

The JI chief said that the government must show the first information report against Hafiz Saeed to the people of Pakistan.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Shireen Mazari said action against the JuD had been taken hours after reports that the US wanted it.

“This is purely a decision under pressure. This is not the government’s own decision,” she claimed.

Mazari said former military ruler Pervez Musharraf also accepted the US pressure to launch the “fight against terror”, but this only proved to be “a big mistake”.

“What did we get out of it? We are weaker than before. We should learn to take decisions on our own,” she said.

Mazari pointed out that the government must bring evidence against the JuD chief, “if they have any.”

“Just putting him under house arrest shows our weakness. If we have a case against him, we should make it public. We should not take dictation from Modi or his supporters,” she said.

The foreign ministry officials on the other hand said that there was no pressure from the US to arrest or release anybody.

“We do have bilateral contact on a regular basis, but there has been no pressure. The interior ministry has arrested him, so they are better placed to tell what is the reason behind it,” said a senior official at the ministry.

The quick action against India’s “most-wanted man”, under pressure from the US, is a clear hint that more could be expected from the Trump-Modi alliance.

If the JuD chief is tried – unlike the past – it will be a symbolic achievement for both Trump and Modi.

The reaction of the followers and sympathisers of Hafiz Saeed, who are deeply embedded in the society and heavily armed, remains to be seen.

 

 

 

Trump to reap what Obama sowed