Good that US has realised how dangerous Hafiz Saeed is. But can it get Pak to agree?
The US decision to announce a bounty on Hafiz Mohammad Saeed,Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba,is a momentous step. India has welcomed the announcement as a signal of US commitment to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. That the bounty is $10 million,puts Saeed in a select group of wanted terrorists Abu Dua (leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq),Mullah Omar (leader of the Afghan Taliban) and Yasin al-Suri (Iran-based al-Qaeda facilitator) are the three others on the US Rewards for Justice list with a $10 mn billing for their capture or information leading to capture. Only al-Qaeda supremo Ayman al-Zawahiri commands more: $25 mn. Nevertheless,this is a direction Washington had been moving in for some time. It was in 2001 that the US had declared LeT a terrorist organisation,compelling Pakistan to ban the outfit in 2002,although doing little to crack own on its activities.
India had asked Pakistan to hand Saeed over after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks,accusing him of masterminding the plot. But having put him under house arrest,Pakistan had released him in less than six months on court orders. Saeeds JuD,as a front for LeT,has been operating openly in Pakistan since Islamabad never officially outlawed the outfit,despite the US and the UN Security Council declaring it a terrorist organisation. With Saeed having founded LeT ostensibly to wrest Kashmir from India,and given the services he has rendered to Pakistans deep state,the immunity he has enjoyed is not surprising. What needs to be watched is Pakistans internal dynamics,and specifically,how the army responds to the US announcement.
The Pakistani parliament is debating the revised framework of relations with the US,as a fallout of airstrikes last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Meanwhile,Pakistans civilian government proved its critics wrong by surviving an increasingly uncomfortable stand-off with the army. India,much as it gains from the announcement about Saeed,should also bear in mind this ongoing tussle between Pakistan and the US,and the possibility of the Pakistan army replacing Saeed now a legitimate US target with another face. On the whole,though,India can read this announcement as reaffirming the widening US perspective on terror emanating from Indias neighbourhood.