State means business

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The US visit by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan – his maiden – is of immense significance for understandable reasons. The two countries have seen highs and lows in their relations yet they could never do without each other for long. The twitter diplomacy has not been great either between the two tweet happy leaders. Now after mediation of by some friendly countries, the visit has materialized finally.

In the run up to the visit, the US declared the BLA a terrorist outfit, a great success for Pakistan’s diplomatic corps. In return, Pakistan arrested Hafiz Saeed. And President Donald Trump immediately acknowledged the move in a tweet that many thought was based on ill-information. Trump thought that Saeed was in hiding for the last 10 years and was located only after pressure on the Pak government.

Be that as it may, the arrest while will help Pakistan have a better negotiating space with the US, it will also help it avoid being in the FATF blacklist.

In a bid to avoid that, Pakistan is taking a tough stand against home grown militancy. Pakistan, having missed the past two deadlines — January 2019 and May 2019 — runs the risk of missing the third – and final – one of October 2019. If in the final review, Pakistan fails to show any progress on some remaining items on the 40-point agenda, it may be clubbed with the likes of Iran and North Korea, facing severe global economic sanctions.

The arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is not the first. He had previously been placed under house arrest in January 2017, but was released in November the same year after court orders.

The tough stance against defunct organizations like JuD and FIF comes after years of pressure on Pakistan to put Saeed on trial. Saeed had been accused by the United States and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people. Although Hafiz Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s stance on the issue had remained unclear for the past one decade and Saeed was allowed to roam free.

Given the ambivalence on the part of successive governments and more particularly the state of Pakistan on the issue of alleged harbouring of terrorist elements and the resultant gap between the stated policy and its implementation against terror outfits, it remains to be seen whether this latest arrest helps in putting Saeed on trial for his alleged crimes.

Now that the IMF loan also is contingent upon the FATF compliance, Pakistan cannot afford to let any such elements scot-free without running a fair trial.