The US decision to issue a $10 million bounty to capture Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the head of the banned Pakistani charity Jamaat-ud Dawa, is becoming an increasingly high profile issue in Pakistan, with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gialni today insisting that the offer sends a “negative message” about the state of US-Pakistani relations.
The problem behind this is that Saeed isn’t, as he will be more than willing to tell you, some militant hiding in a cave. Yesterday he was in Rawalpindi, giving a public speech and looking very much the head of a charity, and not the terrorist mastermind.
Which is the other part of the problem. While the US is insisting Saeed was behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, they readily admitted yesterday that they don’t have any actual solid evidence to that effect. Pakistan’s government insisted yesterday, and the Foreign Minister reiterated today, they’re not going to make another effort at arresting Saeed (who was under house arrest briefly after India made similar allegations) without some sort of proof.
Saeed’s last round with the courts fell flat, again because of lack of evidence, and while the Pakistani government isn’t keen on his charity, and it is legally banned, their success in operating as a successful charity for people displaced in military offensives has earned them a lot of friends among voters.
Thus the US decision to simply slap a bounty on him whiffs not only of intervention in Pakistan’s internal justice system, but an attempt to bribe their way into circumventing it entirely. State Department officials now say they’re hard at work trying to find some evidence against Saeed, but one wonders why the effort is coming only after they slapped a $10 million bounty on him, and after that bounty was rebuffed.
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