The US government-owned webpage, Rewards for Justice, now lists as $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of:
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a former professor of Arabic and Engineering, as well as the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a radical Ahl-e-Hadith Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Saeed is suspected of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 166 people, including six American citizens.
The Republic of India has issued an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Saeed for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Additionally, the United States Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated National under Executive Order 13224. Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 in December 2008.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001. In April 2008, the United States designated Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a Foreign Terrorist Organization; similarly, the United Nations declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization in December 2008.
The US also offered up to 2 million dollars for Lashkar-e-Taiba’s deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, who is Saeed’s brother-in-law.
Saeed, who has denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people, said the US announced the reward because of his demonstrations against reopening supply lines through Pakistan to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
“With the grace of God, we will continue our work as usual. These threats and fixing a bounty is a proof of nervousness,” he said during an interview in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The bounty offers could complicate US-Pakistan relations at a tense time.
Pakistan’s parliament is debating a revised framework for ties with the US following American air-strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Islamabad closed the supply lines to NATO troops in response.
Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 under US pressure, but it operates with relative freedom under the name of its social welfare wing Jamaat-ud-Dawwa – even doing charity work using government money.
The US has designated both groups “terrorist” organisations.
The statement by Hafeez could well have been believed a year ago. At that time one could have argued that if the US was serious about shutting down Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, then it should have threatened sanctions against Pakistan unless it stopped disbursing money through the Jamaat. The truth of the matter was that the USA was convinced that the Taliban/Al Qaeda was separate from Kashmiri militants. In reality they are thoroughly conjoined and act as Pakistani army irregulars. The close connection of Kashmiri militants such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani army was seen during the Kargil war. The close connection between al Qaeda/Taliban and the Pakistani armed forces was evidenced by the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Now a direct connection between al Qaeda/Taliban and Lashkar is claimed by HT:
Hard evidence that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed was communicating with Osama bin Laden through a courier led Washington to put a $10-million (Rs 50-crore) bounty on Saeed’s head.
The evidence also points to the then Al-Qaeda chief, Bin Laden, having played a key role in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people and injured more than 300.
All this was unearthed by US Special Forces last May when they killed Bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and took back bagfuls of his documents and computer equipment.
Bruce Riedel, Pakistan terrorism expert and former AfPak advisor to US President Barack Obama, told HT, “The documents and files found in Abbottabad showed a close connection between Bin Laden and Saeed, right up to May 2011.”
Riedel said the Abbottabad information also “suggested a much larger direct al-Qaeda role in the planning of the Mumbai attacks than many assumed.”
He said the US now has evidence that Bin Laden may have seen the reconnaissance reports of David Headley, Lashkar’s scout for the 26/11 attacks.
Indian experts on Lashkar, pointing out the relationship between the terror outfit and al-Qaeda has been known for years, presumed that the US had additional motives when it suddenly announced the bounty under its Rewards for Justice programme on Monday.
RAW’s former deputy director Rana Banerjee said Saeed has been assuming a larger profile in Pakistan, preparing the ground for a political career. “The US is forcing him underground. It has silenced him for a while,” he said.
Documentation on Lashkar’s ties with al-Qaeda would also explain the $2-million bounty on Adbul Rahman Makki, Lashkar’s financial secretary. Makki, said Banerjee, is the only person Saeed trusts with funds and was the liaison for Lashkar’s global tie-ups.
Lashkar has also attracted US anger, said analyst Wilson John, author of Caliphate’s Soldiers: The Lashkar-e-Tayebba’s Long War, by openly helping militants fighting US troops in Afghanistan.
“Members of the Haqqani network have trained at Lashkar camps,” he said. And so have so-called “white jihadis” – Western-based recruits trained to carry out attacks on Western countries.
Riedel said the bounty decisions are “a recognition that Lashkar-e- Taiba and Saeed are a real threat to both the US and India.” He expects Saeed to use the US announcement to increase his standing as “a symbol of his power in the global jihad”. But Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence will be unhappy as Saeed “is their man”.
If all three sides of the links between the Pakistani army, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Kashmiri militants, and al Qaeda/Taliban become clear and plausible, then all the cases against Hafeez Saeed are interlinked. The Pakistani response initially must be to hunker down, exactly as reported by IBN Live:
Pakistan has beefed up security at the residence of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in Lahore after the US announced a 10 million dollar bounty for the man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Besides nine policemen from Punjab Police deployed at Saeed’s two-storey home at E Block of Jouhar Town, the JuD posted more armed volunteers to ensure foolproof security.
JuD leaders said they had not sought extra security from law enforcement agencies to protect Saeed and his brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki, for whom the US offered a two million dollar reward.
“We are relying on our own security. After the US move, we have attached extra volunteers with Hafiz sahib,” a senior JuD leader said.
The JuD volunteers set up three barricades about 200 to 300 meters from Saeed’s house.
The nine policemen were guarding these barricades while the JuD volunteers, equipped with sophisticated weapons, were on duty inside the building.
“After today’s development, the JuD men asked us to be more vigilant,” a police guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. He said groups of nine policemen were deployed at Saeed’s house for shifts of six hours. Some 60 policemen were deployed at the residence when Saeed was under house arrest, the police guard said.
Other calculations will start in a short while. But for at least a short while, and in this limited space, the interests of India and the USA are perfectly aligned. There is a window of opportunity for India to let the USA play the bad cop while it plays the good cop. Indian diplomacy should strive to ensure that we come out of this with the end of militancy and the beginnings of a better relation with our neighbour, at least a normal rivalry