The big news this week has been the $10 million bounty offered by the US for Hafiz Saeed. The response was predictable. Hafiz Saeed taunted the Americans at a press conference near GHQ. And reactionary media talking heads like Javed Chaudhry took a break from defending acid attackers to defend Hafiz Saeed. And, of course, DPC’s Keyboard Commandos were out in full force defending Saeed’s ‘honour’. In other words, the Americans managed to do for Hafiz Saeed what he could not do for himself – get attention.
Which is too bad, because while Hafiz Saeed is bathing in the lime light, there’s actually something interesting going on that will have a greater effect on national security and Pakistan-India relations than Hafiz Saeed and his band of merry raiders could ever dream of. I am referring, of course, to President Zardari’s trip to India.
While PTI and Hafiz Saeed’s Difa-e-Pakistan are upset that India is not sending its hockey team to Pakistan, the president is not allowing such minor issues get in the way of improving relations. Actually, if India not sending its hockey team is the worst example these hard line right-wingers can come up with, I would say we’ve already made a lot of progress.
And progress seems to be going on despite all attempts by right-wing elements to maintain the status quo. According to a report by BBC, the president’s trip is being appreciated widely in India where it demonstrates an effort to move beyond the past ways of confrontation to one of respect and appreciation of mutual interests.
“Under Mr Zardari’s watch, India and Pakistan are considering a sweeping agenda for economic co-operation for the first time in decades. The prime minister has every reason to welcome Mr Zardari warmly and consider the next steps in consolidating the unexpected movement in bilateral relations,” the Indian Express wrote.
Analyst C Raja Mohan believes Mr Singh must make an official trip to Pakistan after his meeting with Mr Zardari. “For his part,” he wrote, “Mr Singh should convey to Mr Zardari his readiness to move as fast and as far as the Pakistan president is willing to go.” Others like Jyoti Malhotra actually find Mr Zardari’s visit to the shrine of a famous Sufi Muslim saint in Rajasthan loaded with symbolism in these troubled times. “Clearly, Mr Zardari has stolen an imaginative moment from the bitter-sullen history of India-Pakistan, by asking to come to pay his respects to a cherished and much-beloved saint across the Indian subcontinent,” she wrote.
Is it any wonder that PTI and Difa-e-Pakistan are upset? If President Zardari continues to ease tensions and build trust between our two nations, it is much more likely that important issues like Kashmir will be solved. And if issues like Kashmir are solved and the India bogey goes away, guys like Hafiz Saeed and the other status quo religious parties will be out of a job.
On Tuesday night, Najam Sethi predicted that President Zardari has already achieved a historic breakthrough, but that it is being kept under wraps because of fear that groups like Difa-e-Pakistan will try to wreck the process before it is complete. According to Sethi, part of the agreement involves removing Indian troops from Siachen.
While this is exactly what Pakistan wants and needs, it is exactly the opposite of what Hafiz Saeed and other right-wingers want. They want the status quo – an eternal standoff with India. Otherwise, they are completely irrelevant.
Hafiz Saeed is loving every minute of the attention that is being lavished on him. The gazi wanna be is even begging the US to carry out a military raid against him. Something that is not likely to happen, however, because it seems that Hafiz Saeed simply doesn’t matter anymore.