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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Sudden Ajmer Calling

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: April 12, 2012

Diplomatic errors aside, the US State Department recently issued a reward for any information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed. This initiated a passionate debate in Pakistan. Passionate indeed as it was seen from the tainted lens of the usual India-Pakistan tussle. The minor detail leading to such a reaction, of course, was this call made by the State Department to their Indian counterparts. Our prime minister quickly retorted that Pakistan’s sovereignty must be respected and in a way, told the US that we were not ready for a sequel to the Abbottabad operation. PM Gilani’s comment was a bit hasty. Unlike bin Laden, Saeed is a Pakistani citizen, duly protected by the rights given to him by the law of the land. So rationally speaking, the State Department did not place any so-called bounty on Saeed’s head. All it said in essence was that since Pakistani courts had released Saeed on multiple occasions due to lack of evidence, it would be prudent to seek some. Perhaps this reward would serve as a catalyst to yield the desired outcome.

Saeed’s subsequent press conference and challenges to the US were good moves on his part. Of course, his stance was that he was willing to plead his case in any court of law in the world, including the US. His supporters made the usual connection between him and Islam and deemed the US pledge as an attack on Islam. has to take pause and wonder how in the world someone can come up with this logic. However, it must be remembered that blind passion and logic are both inversely proportional.

The leading question that pops up in my idle mind is where are the most cases filed against Saeed in the world? Since the answer is so obvious, the next question that pops up is that would he go to that place and face them? I will let the many talented and gifted analysts render their professional opinion on that one.

One such gifted analyst, whom I admire and respect a lot and follow on Twitter, came to Saeed’s rescue in a popular daily. He provided a detailed legal analysis of how Saeed was exonerated from all the cases in Pakistan. The most telling comment of his write-up was buried in a phrase somewhere, “...granted Hafiz Saeed is no Mother Teresa.” When I pressed the acclaimed scribe on Twitter to describe Saeed since he was no Mother Teresa, then what was he, the scribe simply admonished me for being wrong and acting like an uninformed net activist.

I know I am clueless about the intricacies of foreign relations and perhaps do not know jack about the Indo-Pakistan military conflict, but I know one thing for sure. The Indians may have a ton of information against the person in question. It would not be a stretch to assume that it was shared with the US State Department on that end. This is what led to the $ 10 million reward. The Pakistan Foreign Office of course has requested their Indian counterparts to share that information with them. The Indians are arguably wary of any such sharing. There is a mountain of mistrust between the two countries. There are hawks on both ends that are unwilling to bend. As cruel as it may sound, the conflict between the two neighbours is a thriving business for some. I take exception to instances when people go for the jugular by attributing it to a western conspiracy. It is rather easy to lay the blame on others rather than accepting our own shortcomings. In the early scribbles at my initial forum, I argued this to death with many passionate hawks on both sides. For that, I earned so many titles that I do not have the space to repeat them here. The fact of the matter is that Mr Jinnah had envisioned a relationship between India and Pakistan much like the US and Canada. There are many, including this scribe, who would do anything in their power to make that happen, no matter what.

One has to take President Zardari’s personal visit to Ajmer with a grain of salt. Then the Indian PM Manmohan Singh’s lunch invitation to the President on a rather private visit catches the eye. The president took a delegation of advisors with him who perhaps had a similar spiritual calling like him. When these lines are being read, both the president and the Indian PM would have been done with their ‘mini-summit’. If I were to make a wild and amateurish guess about the agenda of that meeting, I would say the information about Saeed would perhaps be one of the key points.

If I were a foreign office geek, I would let Siachen take the lead on that agenda. It was heart wrenching to hear about close to 140 lives lost at that freezing post. Again, with no military background, I often wonder that the cost of staffing that post certainly outweighs any potential or perceived benefit. If there was any doubt about this civilian’s assertion, perhaps the deeply talented and trained generals and their superiors will be able to give it a second thought after this horrific tragedy. Let us all give a salute of honour to the valiant jawans and civilians who perished, and many who are up there on numerous recovery missions. These are the selfless people responding to the call of duty, a duty that takes them to unimaginable places. There are many silent people on both sides who have laid down their lives at the frozen heights of Siachen and Kargil. One often wonders for what — perhaps for the boiling egos of a deeply cynical minority. Ironically, on both ends, these are the ones whose hearts and minds are definitely frozen

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