Gen Musharraf has done well to restrain Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed from inciting more violence in Pakistan. Saeed has been placed under house arrest as part of another crackdown, this time on would-be rioters. It was only after it became clear that the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba were not content with the mayhem they already caused earlier this week and intended to escalate the campaign of ‘protests’ that Musharraf decided that they had overstepped the line.
It is already an open secret that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Lashkar-e-Taiba and others were going about their business as usual in Pakistan. Neither international media attention nor pressure from the United States suffices for Musharraf to do something about them. It is only after it became clear that the actions of the jihadi groups could result in the collapse of government control in key Pakistani cities that Musharraf decided to act. That’s how much he tolerates them. But the jihadi establishment cannot bring the crowds out every day. Once the current anger over cartoons abates, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed will have to go back to making rousing speeches against India, America and Israel. He is likely to find himself free to do so, as long as he sticks to that brief.