Mumbai attack mastermind and banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed’s name was not on the list of 75 terrorists the United States had handed over to Pakistan last month. Saeed has been under house arrest in Pakistan since January this year and hasn’t enjoyed fresh air since long.
Saeed is a popular figure among the Islamists and hardliners. He is an influential person in Pakistan’s religious circles. He is a campaigner and knows very well what is sellable in a country which is facing political instability and security issues. He has his long-term and short-term plan in mind before rebranding his favourite JuD. He is aware of the returns he might reap from a political party which he can’t get from being head of organizations like LeT and JuD.
The list surprised all in political circles. President Trump’s South Asian strategy and a harsh stance towards Pakistan put a strain in the US – Pak relations in August. Moreover, a stern approach of Pak officials towards Hafiz Saeed under the US pressure jeopardized the relations further. Many times, the officials both from the US and Pakistan shelved off their official visits. The relations soured between the US and Pakistan to a greater extent that Pakistan inclined more towards China rather the long time ally, US. Nonetheless, the list without the mention of Hafiz Saeed looks as if the US has shunned their stubbornness to some extent.
This year in August, the United States declared Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) a terrorist organization and offered $10 million recompenses for the information about Hafiz Saeed or his conviction. This announcement was viewed as a diplomatic win for India. India has been yelling to prosecute Hafiz Saeed because it suspects him to be the brain behind 26/11 event.
On the contrary, the most wanted terrorist list which was handed over by the US to Pakistani officials tells a different tale. The list was passed on during the maiden visit of the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Pakistan in October 2017. According to the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, the Haqqani Network is on the top of the US list.
Previously, Saeed was among the most wanted list by the US in 2014 and his organization JuD is accused of many attacks especially in India. Besides JuD, Haqqani network which is based in Afghanistan has also carried out attacks against the US interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombings of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.
Further, Pakistan no longer has influence over Afghan Taliban as it did in the past. The cat is out of the bag now. Pakistani officials assert that neither is Pakistan supporting them nor do the Taliban need their help.
Despite the repeated denial from Pakistan, Tillerson emphasized renewed Washington’s demand for tougher action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. However, the meeting between Khawaja Asif and Tillerson was deemed to have taken place in a cordial atmosphere and there were no accusations from any side.
Tillerson asserted that Pakistan will not indulge in any kind of proxy war but continue to play its role for peace and security in the region. Pakistan wanted to expand relations with the US on the basis of equality and self-respect. Time will tell whether the US – Pak relations will be based on equality and self-respect or on threats and counter-threats. As of Trump administration in White house continues to change its statements towards Pakistan and seems to be in perpetual dilemma its foreign policy towards this south Asian country. It becomes increasingly difficult for Trump administration to strike the balance in supporting India- the only south Asian country to counter the growing influence of China in South Asia besides retaining its long time ally Pakistan against War on terror.