Islamabad [Pakistan], June 26 (ANI): "Wanted: Dead or Alive" is the usual demand in the world of crime anywhere. But the living is declared dead in Pakistan's world of criminals and terrorists. And if need be, the dead come alive, if the powerful are to be placated.
This is the curious case of Sajid Mir, one of the masterminds of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008. Declared "untraceable" and "dead" for a long time because India wanted him captured, tried and punished, he has "come alive", in a manner of speaking, and is quietly imprisoned for 15 years.
The reasons range from placating the United States to reaching out to India for talks and trade. But the immediate intended gain is convincing the fact-finding team of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that is expected to make an on-site visit to Pakistan.
The FATF, it may be recalled, at its last conference in Berlin (June 17-18), resolved to take Pakistan off its "under watch" list, popularly known as the "grey" list, since it had fulfilled most, though not all, requirements of enacting laws and taking executive actions to eliminate money-laundering and promoting terror financing through its agencies and banking institutions.
It is but tentative. Hence, after initial rejoicing, when everyone fell over each other in taking credit, the sober mood called for clearing all tracks before the arrival of the visiting FATF team.
This is why, and how, Sajid Majeed Mir has surfaced. Before proceeding further it is interesting to note three recalls of the recent past. Osama Bin Laden was "probably dead, and definitely not in Pakistan", according to the now ailing and exiled military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
He would ridicule any talk of Pakistan hiding Osama. Till, long after he was out of office and under house arrest in 2011, when the US Seals, the Special Forces' commandos, located him in a hideout in Abbottabad and eliminated him. When asked, he sang the "sovereignty" song -- its violation by the US.
Baitullah Mehsud of the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) backed the assassin who killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. He was declared "untraceable", even "dead" in an encounter. But he surfaced in 2018 to deny any involvement.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, another TTP leader and spokesman was behind the shooting of Malala Yusuf, the little girl who survived being flown to Britain. She eventually became the world's youngest Nobel Laureate. Ehsanullah even baited Malala to "return to Pakistan once."
Under prosecution, Ehsan escaped, and then surrendered following an "understanding" reached with one of the Pakistani intelligence outfits. When this did not succeed, he escaped again, simply took a flight along with the family, and fled to Turkey.
Sajid Mir has now "come alive" and is in jail. An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan awarded over 15 years jail term in a terror-financing case to Mir.
"An anti-terrorism court in Lahore early this month had handed down over 15 years jail term to Sajid Majeed Mir, an activist of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), on a terror-financing case," a senior lawyer associated with terror financing cases of LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawa leaders said on June 24, 2022.
The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab Police, which often issues convictions of the suspects in such cases to the media, did not notify Mir's conviction in a terror-financing case. Besides, since it was an in-camera proceeding at the jail, the media was not allowed.
The lawyer further said convict Mir, who is in his mid-40s, has been in the Kot Lakhpat jail since his arrest this April. He said the court also imposed a fine of over PKR 400,000 on Mir. Pakistan told the FATF at the Berlin conference that it had arrested and prosecuted Sajid Mir to facilitate removal from the FATF 'Grey list'.
Sajid Mir has a bounty of USD 5 Million. He was called "project manager" of the Mumbai attacks. He had reportedly visited India in 2005 using a fake passport with a fake name. Mumbai terror attacks alleged mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed has already been sentenced to 68 years imprisonment in terror financing cases by the Lahore Anti Terrorism Court (ATC).
Mumbai attack "operation commander" Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is also convicted to several years in jail. Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist on whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty, was arrested in July 2019 in the terror financing cases.
The jail sentence of Mir, after Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi, comes as part of the plan to placate FATF.
The arrest of Sajid Mir also has a diplomatic angle. The new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is keen on mending fences damaged by its predecessor Imran Khan Government. The targets are the United States and up to a point, India, ostensibly, under American persuasion.
The Sharif government is playing up to Washington, in contrast to Imran Khan's anti-US campaign that has intensified after being voted out of power. Reports are that Islamabad wants to facilitate the US presence in Afghanistan that the latter had to quit last August when the Taliban seized power.
Islamabad began by sending ISI chief, Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum to Washington. After the stage was set, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Foreign Minister in the Sharif Government, was in the US and soon after, Bilawal began advocating the resumption of the ties with India, gone "cold" in the last two years.
He talked of ties with India being of mutual interest, even in Pakistan's interest, but stopped short of doing anything concrete, even resuming bilateral trade that he thinks would benefit Pakistan more. Mir's surfacing and imprisonment are to impress India, of good intent of the Sharif Government. But only words have come forth.
Pakistan has acted this way in the past as well, under Washington's persuasion.
In this game wherein wheels-within-wheels move, it may be safe to surmise that the next gesture from Bilawal to India may come once Washington helps clear the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan that Pakistan urgently requires. (ANI)