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Headed nowhere

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
April 7, 2012 1:10:08 am

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Headed nowhere

With every public appearance,Hafiz Saeed manages to steal the show from all other news stories. This week,the US State Department gave him another sustained moment of “glory”. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Toiba chief,also the accused mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks,is now a man with a $10 million price tag,thanks to an announcement from Washington in New Delhi.

The fact that the $10 million bounty on Saeed’s arrest was announced by US under secretary of state,Wendy Sherman,while she was on a visit to India,has predictably rattled the Pakistani establishment. Dawn reported on April 4: “ ‘In order to proceed against Hafiz Saeed,we need hard and undeniable evidence that can withstand judicial scrutiny,’ an official of the interior ministry told Dawn…’’ We can’t prosecute a Pakistani national on the basis of hearsay just to please India,’ he said about the reward announced by a US official in New Delhi”. Authenticating Pakistan’s discontent or reluctance,call it what you may,was the interior minister,Rehman Malik,who said on a TV talk show that “the government was yet to be officially intimated by the US about the bounty”. Senator Mushahid Hussain,of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q),a federal government ally and a prominent name and voice in Pakistan’s politics,was also quoted in this report as condemning the bounty: “The US has announced reward for information about a person against whom no criminal case exists in America.” He urged the government to lodge a protest with Washington against the move.

Pakistan’s prime minister,Yousuf Raza Gilani,expressed his guarded condemnation of the announcement,The Express Tribune reported on April 6: “the premier called the American decision… ‘unfortunate’,especially at a time when Islamabad and Washington were trying to repair damaged ties. ‘Such negative messages will increase trust deficit at a time when the parliament was engaged in framing new rules of engagement with the US…’ Opposition MPs called this week’s American decision ‘foolish and arrogant’ ”.

Saeed and his JuD not only fumed at the announcement,but also blamed India for inspiring the idea,reported The Express Tribune: “The action against me is also an act of terrorism and America is doing it at the behest of India.” The JuD is also mulling legal action against the announcement,however futile that may sound at this stage. The report added: “ ‘Our legal experts will soon meet to consider if it is possible. We will use this option,though we don’t take this seriously,’ JuD information secretary,Hafiz Muhammad Masood,told The Express Tribune”.

Saeed added a dash of dark humour to the furore that followed the announcement and the various reactions it got. He brazenly held a press conference to make his reaction public and dared the US to “contact him in Lahore”. Daily Times reported on April 5 that “he mocked the idea of offering a bounty for someone who lives so openly. ‘Americans seriously lack information. Don’t they know where I go and where I live and what I do?’ he said. ‘These rewards are usually announced for people who are hiding in mountains or caves. I wish the Americans would give this reward money to me…” In Pakistan’s radical circles,the bounty announcement is being attributed to the US’s anger with Saeed’s newly-formed Difa-e-Pakistan Council,which has waxed eloquent against the resumption of supplies to NATO forces after they were halted following NATO’s air strike at Pakistani troops at the Pak-Afghan border last winter.

Please don’t go

The bounty announcement on Saeed has vitiated the environment that was perceived to have warmed up earlier this week after the Pakistan president,Asif Zardari,announced his plan to undertake a pilgrimage to Dargah Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. Reacting to the bounty announcement,the Difa-e-Pakistan Council advised Zardari to cancel his trip.

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