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The Masood charade

The Masood charade

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 18, 2002
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=14946

Introduction: What Pakistan says and what it does are two separate things when it comes to jehadis

The release of Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, by the Lahore High Court from preventive detention comes a month after the same court released Hafeez Mohammad Saeed, the chief of the banned terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba. Leading segments of the Pakistani media had believed that the arrest of Masood a year ago had made a significant contribution to lowering tension between Pakistan and India, besides Pakistan itself being the primary beneficiary of his arrest and the ban on his group. But what is more important is the fact that Pakistan government, in its submission to the court seeking to extend Masood's detention, had stated that any denial of his further detention could result in 'severe' law and order situation in the country.

The government, therefore, sought Masood's detention for a further period of 90 days on the grounds of the 'prime interest' of Pakistan. But the court concluded that the government had failed even after one year to produce sufficient evidence for further extension of the detention period.

On the other hand, the divisional police officer has stated that Masood Azhar was 'not involved in a terrorist or any criminal activity' during the period of detention since December 2, 2001. This is obviously a stark contradiction of the government's own plea for extending the detention on grounds of 'prime interests' of the state! After the Indian threat of war last year, and General Pervez Musharraf's January 12 speech, nearly 2,000 leaders and members of jehadi groups had been arrested. But within a few months more than 1,300 of them had been released on grounds of insufficient evidence. More recently, a number of leaders and activists of banned jehadi organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba have been freed, making a mockery of both the law and of Pakistan's professed co-operation in the war against terrorism.

Pakistani police and other agencies have been deeply influenced by the jehadi groups, and have done precious little to curb lawlessness and terrorism even inside Pakistan. This may be a factor in the police not bringing forth the minimum evidence required in the case. But Pakistan has been very selective in arresting and punishing people involved in terrorist activities, and sufficient evidence has been forthcoming quite efficiently when the establishment decided that it would suit its interests to do so.

In fact, even normal legal provisions and extradition procedures were ignored in cases like that of Aimal Kansi (involved in New York's first World Trade Centre bombing in early 1990s) or the Al Qaeda top leader Zawahiri, arrested from Faisalabad in March last. Essentially the bulk of evidence in cases like that of Masood Azhar's culpability is likely to be in the possession of the ISI. As long as ISI continues to propagate its role of controlling domestic politics as well as waging jihad across the borders, it is unlikely to part with such evidence to the courts.

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