Photo: AP/K.M. Chaudary
The U.S. Under Secretary of State on Sunday announced a $10 million “bounty” for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed, the man India claims is behind the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, among other operations, AFP reports.While the move may have initially been welcomed by India as a pro-active step by the Obama administration, the announcement may not actually be the best decision the U.S. has made.
1 – It could worsen already-fragile US-Pakistan relations and damage the civilian government’s credibility
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said the U.S. reward is an attempt to interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs and override the country’s independent judiciary, Voice of America reports. Gilani has also announced in parliament that Pakistan will not give in to U.S. pressure, and that the issue could widen the trust deficit between the two countries, The Daily Times reports.
This case is the latest in a string of episodes where America has taken unilateral action on Pakistani soil or in Pakistani internal affairs without appearing to consult Gilani or President Asif Ali Zardari. These kinds of actions seem to vindicate the argument that the U.S. is not really Pakistan’s ally, and “what it really seeks is an alliance with India to try and squeeze Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.
The bounty has also not gone down well with the public. Hundreds of Pakistani Islamist activists took to the streets Friday, calling for holy war and torching a U.S. flag, according to AFP.
2 – It proves the U.S. lacks evidence to convict Saeed
They wouldn’t be putting out a reward for information if they already had it.
And if they already had it, Saeed would probably already be on trial.
“Every journalist in Pakistan knows how to find him. But we’re looking for information that can be usable to convict him,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, according to Daily Mail reports. He added the information they did have was “not necessarily usable in a court of law,” hinting that the U.S. does not have complete confidence in the information India has presented against Saeed.
Pakistan has been quick to pick up on this. Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Toner’s remarks made it “clear that even the U.S. does not possess concrete evidence against Saeed,” The Hindu reports.
3 – It’s already added to Saeed’s credibility among his followers
Making Saeed one of the “most wanted” people in the world will definitely make him more legit in the eyes of fellow extremists.
“Already seen by many people as a symbol of defiance against India and the West, the bounty comes as a boon for his image of a leader of the resistance against the Americans,” Pakistan’s The Express Tribune said in an editorial.
Saeed is already taking advantage of this, especially since the government will not arrest him and he is free to move around Pakistan. At a recent rally, he called for President Zardari to cancel his visit to India and opposed the reopening to NATO supply routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan, The Express Tribune reports.
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