Conflict & Justice

IndoPak: Why not publish evidence against Hafiz Saeed?


Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari visited India on Sunday in an effort to improve bilateral relations through an informal meeting with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.



In the immediate aftermath of the Indian prime minister's lunch meeting with Pakistan's president over the weekend, Manmohan Singh's counterpart in Islamabad declared that he is ever-so-serious about prosecuting those responsible for the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai -- but he needs more evidence before he can go after Hafiz Saeed, the man India claims controls Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"We are serious on the issue of Saeed but the question is how to proceed against him without evidence." Pakistan prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters in Lahore on Monday, according to the Times of India. "Courts here are independent and we need substantial evidence against him."

Sound familiar? That's the claim that Pakistan has been making all along, and it got some unexpected (and perhaps inadvertent) support from Washington last week, with the announcement of a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed's conviction. But it's not as crazy as New Delhi makes it out to be.

Faced with similar evidence problems, the US created a special offshore prison to avoid the niceties of the American justice system in Guantanamo Bay after all, and Seal Team Six took no chances on bringing Osama bin Laden back to a long and uncertain trial -- though American courts have convicted Mumbai-plotter David Headley, 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and others of terrorist attacks. And even if we accept at face value India's hints that the verdicts were influenced by Saeed's alleged handlers in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Pakistan's courts have found Saeed innocent of such crimes in the past.

So what is India to do?

Following the same old script, India's home secretary will carry an "updated" dossier on the alleged involvement of Saeed and six other Pakistani nationals in the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks when he visits Pakistan in May, India's Mail Today newspaper reports. But that's a response that hardly inspires much hope, and recalls Einstein's famous definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

What if, instead, India published its evidence implicating Saeed? Any concerns about a trial by media are clearly ludicrous at this point, so there can be only three basic reasons why they haven't done so. Either the evidence is weak and they're afraid to admit it, or the evidence reveals too much detail about Indian intelligence sources, or they're concerned about drawing a line in the sand that they can't erase afterward.

But if they're worried about the evidence being weak, that's the perception that already exists. If they're worried about their intelligence sources, they have delusions of grandeur -- considering their efficacy so far. And if they're worried about drawing a line in the sand, they should just stop talking about terrorism altogether and get on with improving trade relations.