Hafeez Saeed needs no introduction to Americans. His name rings bells because his jihadi outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba, (LeT), had carried out a blitzkrieg of sort on India's happening city, Mumbai, in Nov 2008, and claimed the lives of several Americans, Brits, and Israelis amongst other nationalities. Both the UN and U.S. have declared LeT a terrorist organization.
Washington has placed a $ 10 million bounty on Hafeez's head but it has not come in his way of moving around Pakistan freely at the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), an Islamic charity, holding out threats to the United States, India and Israel. These days, Hafiz Saeed is making ways in Pakistan for altogether different reasons from his perch in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, which is also the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
A real estate agent, Khalid Saeed, of Lahore, has complained to the Punjab Police and the Lahore High Court that he was summoned by Darul Qaza Al-Sharia, JuD's kangaroo court, to appear in a property dispute case. The JuD warned him that "no excuse would be accepted and action would be taken according to Sharia."
His case has created the impression that JuD has become bold in dispensing swift justice, which the official judicial system is unable to deliver. Pakistan's judiciary is saddled with over 1.7 million cases, according to the Law Commission of Pakistan. Litigants particularly from the poor strata of the society are generally reluctant to knock at the doors of courts because of tardy progress and absence of witness protection laws.
Pakistan is not a functional democracy. The Army chief matters the most, as he calls the shots on India-Afghan- America policies. In fact the military enjoys the status of permanent establishment. Islamists, and a section of political class keep themselves afloat by proclaiming loyalty to and serving the interests of the Army General Head Quarters (GHQ), and also of the Army- run Inter-Services Intelligence, (ISI), which is the CIA plus of Pakistan.
A manifestation of this phenomenon, which is compounded by a spineless political executive, is JuD's Sharia Court for instant justice. There are many such courts functioning in the tribal belt of the country that borders Afghanistan and provides shelter to the Taliban, and its clones. In addition, there are Jirgas, which are no more than councils of village elders all over rural Pakistan.
The Jirga courts are guided by the principle of eye-for-eye. They often give away in barter women and order rape and force marriage of young girls particularly in cases of honour killings - killings in cold blood by members of a victim's family as punishment for bringing "shame" on the community.
One such honour killing took place in the village of Makol, 50 km from Islamabad on April 29, 2016, and became front page news. A 16-year-old girl, Ambreen Riasat, was drugged, killed and burnt by a group of men of her village. Her crime: helping a young couple to elope. Ambreen's death demonstrates how ineffective the formal justice system is even near the seat of federal government.
STATE WITHIN STATE
Darul Qaza Al-Sharia is a cut above the Jirga courts, since it has been established by the all-powerful Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which has perfected the art of hoodwinking the Washington-based Ayatollahs of anti-terrorism campaign. It started off as Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI) and changed into JuD in the wake of the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, which was launched by Lashkar-e-Toiba, (LeT), itself.
The biggest plus of JuD and its chief Hafeez Saeed is ISI patronage. Today, it boasts of a big university, a large seminary at its base in Muridke, outside Lahore, and several centres to train in-house jihadis and ISI sponsored Mujahideen from home and abroad.
The first JuD court was set up at its headquarters two decades ago. It has delivered justice in over 5,500 cases, according to The News International, an English daily.
Any objection raised by any party to the verdict is "tantamount to disobedience of Allah and His messenger," Hafeez Saeed decreed as he empowered himself to appoint judges and reserved to himself the right to hearing appeals on decisions made by the "subordinate judges".
JuD has become thus a state within a state, a Tier - II establishment, the Tier --I being the GHQ Shura-led permanent establishment.
Since 1990 Hafeez's judicial system has been in place in Islamabad under the very nose of Pakistani government. Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, Multan, Karachi, and Quetta are among the other key centres where Hafeez courts are functioning, which goes to show that Pakistan's civil, military and judicial establishments have not stood in the way of JuD's parallel judicial system.
It is a reward for Hafeez's services, which are available on tap. For instance, in Nov 2011, when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by American planes along the Afghan border, he had cobbled up 40 plus political, religious and Islamist groups to float Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defence of Pakistan Council) with the war cry against NATO.
You and I may argue that the Hafeez's enterprise poses a danger to the civil society as we have seen it elsewhere in the world. Well, there is something wrong rotten in Pakistan. Its zealots have just turned a murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, (the assassin of anti-blasphemy law crusader, Salman Taseer, in 2011) into a martyr.
The shrine that has come up at Qadri's grave, which is a couple of miles away from Islamabad, mirrors the reality of Pakistan, where politicians court openly leaders of militant groups, and security forces and the bureaucracy publicly throw their lot with perpetrators of crimes in the name of religion.
Otherwise JuD, which has been on UN list of terrorist organizations could not have become a publicly visible face of vigilante justice. And Hafeez Saeed a free man. The Security Council Sanctions List includes Lashkar-e-Toiba (ID: QDe.118) and lists Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a secondary name. Hafeez was placed on the list in 2008.
As Dr. Mohammad Taqi (The curious case of banned outfits, Daily Times, Lahore, Jan 29, 2015) says, "the delusional thinking about 'benign' jihadism remains rampant not just in the security establishment of Pakistan but also afflicts the political class and the intelligentsia".
Orthodox Salafism is the doctrinal orientation of the JuD, al Qaeda and IS. All the three are active across Pakistan from Durand Line (Afghanistan-Pakistan border) to Radcliffe Line (Pakistan-India border) and Pakistan-Iran border to Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) -- Xinjiang (North-western China) border.
CHINA FACES ACID TEST
United States, as one of the 'A' trinity (Allah, Army and America) that guides Pakistan, knows the Pakistani system. No doubt but more than the US, it is China that is in a position to make its all-weather friend to fall in line with the UN quest to bring the likes of Hafeez Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) to justice.
Firstly, it has a better understanding of the Pakistani state and its ways, particularly its nexus with the jihadi groups like JuD and JeM, which have been operating under several disguises.
Secondly, it has been dealing with the Pak Islamist zealots on its own, often paying ransom quietly without any demur, to secure its business interests that range from beauty parlours to highways and cellular phone services from the highlands in Talibanised North-west Pakistan to Karachi, the commercial capital of the country.
Thirdly, it has been at the receiving end of Pakistani jihadis, who, are sheltering and arming the Uyghur Muslim rebels.
Moreover, last December, China armed itself with a law that enables it to mount anti-terror ops abroad by projecting its Uyghur concerns as part of global war on terrorism.
China faced the first acid test to its new doctrine on the eve of All Fools Day at the United Nations. It requested the Sanction Committee, which was considering a ban on Azhar, to keep the designation on hold.
Azhar's JeM has been on the UN sanctions list since 2001. Logically, he too should come under restrictions but his case "did not meet" the Security Council's requirements, China said without elaborating. And another confessed terrorist leader remains a free man to roam around Pakistan without hindrance even after master minding an attack on Pathankot airbase!
China should have been in the forefront of putting Azhar on the sanctions list while forcing Islamabad to enforce the UN ban on Hafeez Saeed. The Chinese did neither; instead, brazenly exercised a veto to save Azhar, who had secured his freedom in the most treacherous way - bartering the lives of passengers on a plane hijacked to Taliban controlled Kandahar with his own freedom in December 1999.
Is this a short sighted tactic, an act to bail out a dear friend or a grand plan of eat the cake and have it too? Either way, Hafeez courts and China's love for Azhar appear on the same page, putting a question mark over the relevance of veto.