New Delhi: India Monday cautiously welcomed Pakistan’s move to list militant leader Hafiz Saeed and four of his aides under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act, imposing restrictions on their movement and communication with the media.
Analysts say India’s reaction seemed to indicate that Pakistan will have to do much more to curtail cross-border terrorism emanating from that country before New Delhi could think of resuming talks.
“Hafiz Saeed is an international terrorist, the mastermind of Mumbai terrorist attack and responsible for unleashing wave of terrorism against Pakistan’s neighbours through LeT/JuD (Lashkar-e-Toiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity) and their affiliates," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said. The 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008 holding the city to ransom from 26-29 November belonged to the LeT, according to the sole terrorist captured alive by the police.
Swarup, however, qualified his remarks with the hope that the listing of Saeed under Pakistan’s terrorism Act would be only the “logical first step"—implying that India was looking forward to more steps like bringing Saeed to justice—to follow.
India’s qualified welcome of Pakistan’s move comes amid strains between the two countries over a series of terrorist attacks in 2016—on India’s Pathankot airforce station, at an Indian Army garrison in Uri and another Army residential facility in Nagrota.
“We hope it’s not a one off act but the start of a process by which Saeed will be brought to book," said a person familiar with the developments, who did not wish to be named.
India’s distrust stems from the fact that Saeed was put under house arrest after the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, but he was freed within six months on the orders of the Lahore high court. This time round, Saeed and his aides were placed in “preventive detention" or house arrest on 30 January. On Saturday, they were listed under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act by the government of Punjab province, according to Pakistani media reports. And the reason for Pakistan to take these steps was pressure from the UN, US and even China to keep up its international obligations as per UN requirements on action against terrorism.
Saeed was designated a terrorist by the UN in December 2008.
“In my opinion, the government is saying that this is the first step with more needed to follow" before a thaw can happen, said Dilip Sinha, former joint secretary in charge of Pakistan. According to Pakistani calculations, India was unlikely to make any move to resume talks before assembly polls to five states—currently underway—were to conclude on 8 March.
According to Section 11EE of Pakistan’s terrorism act, people involved in terrorism, members of an organisation that is banned or on the interior ministry’s watch list or suspected to be involved with a group involved in terrorism can be included in the Fourth Schedule.
The Schedule imposes a wide range of restrictions on the movement and activities of a listed person. Such a person is not allowed to visit schools, colleges and other educational institutions, parks, hotels and public places, airports, railway stations, TV and radio stations or attend public rallies and meetings, according to a report in the Express Tribune newspaper.
Under the provisions of this schedule, authorities can probe the assets and sources of income of the listed persons and their families to ascertain whether the assets are legitimate. These restrictions can be applicable for a maximum of three years.
Saeed currently heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has not been banned but is on the watch list. The US and the UN Security Council have already declared the JuD and its sister organisation, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, as fronts for the LeT.