Why Is Hafiz Saeed, the Man With a $10 Million Bounty, Still Free?
At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading to the United States for his fourth visit, India’s most wanted terrorist, Hafiz Saeed, is carrying out anti-India-USA rallies on the streets of Islamabad.
On Sunday, Saeed held a rally to protest the killing of the Taliban Chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in a US military drone attack. Many strategic security experts see the killing of Mansour as a move by the US to ‘bully’ and ‘use’ Islamabad to to gradually root out Taliban ‘safe havens’ from Pakistan. Yet, India’s most wanted – a man with US bounty of $10 million on his head and a UN declared terrorist – roams free. Why can’t the US ‘bully’ Pakistan to reign him in?
The ‘Untouchable’ Hafiz Saeed
1. Despite US Bounty
In 2012, when America announced the $10 million bounty against Saeed, he held a press conference in Rawalpindi the next day to disclose his location and mock the Americans. He added that he wasn’t hiding in the caves, forcing the US to clarify that the bounty was not to find him but for information that could secure his conviction.
2. Despite India’s Extradition Demand
While India continues to say there is enough evidence against Saeed, we have failed to extradite him because the Pakistan Foreign Ministry insists there is no ‘concrete’ evidence. South Asia terror experts say Hafiz Saeed works closely with the Pakistani military, intelligence, and is cushioned by the political establishment.
3. Despite Arrests
Every time Hafiz Saeed is placed under house arrest because of mounting international pressure, the Pakistani courts rule in his favour. Courts say intelligence against him is not admissible as evidence in court, and thus keeping him under house arrest is ‘unconstitutional’. This is a story that has played out in Pakistan since the 2001 attack on India’s parliament.
4. Despite Al-Qaeda Links
Bruce O Riedel, author and one of America’s leading experts on US security and counter-terrorism, in an interview to The Foreign Policy Magazine said that the US has secured enough evidence against Saeed from Bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout. It was this information that led to the bounty being announced close to four years after 26/11. This was not a ‘bureaucratic delay’ says Riedel, but a ‘calculated point of contention in an already contentious relationship’.
America’s Lip Service
America seems to have incontrovertible proof linking Saeed to Bin Landen, and they have made all the right noises, report after report. The most recent US State Department Country Reports on Terrorism – 2015 states:
The Pakistani military undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as TTP, but did not take action against other groups such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba, which continued to operate, train, rally, propagandize, and fundraise in Pakistan. Afghan Taliban and HQN leadership continued to find safe haven in Pakistan, and although Pakistan military operations disrupted the actions of these groups, it did not directly target them. (sic)
‘India Needs To Act Alone’
So why does America have its hands tied? The Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi argues that America’s bounty against Saeed is because of the Americans killed in 26/11 and that it would never act against the likes of Saeed at India’s behest.
America has certain misplaced dependency on Pakistan for its Afghan management strategy. They also believe that Pakistan is unpredictable with its Nuclear weapons and thus the restrained action, but when America decides they have an advantage, they will take him down. But America is not going to attack Saeed because of India’s pressure. We anyway go as petitioners, rather than a negotiating power. America has only shown interest in LeT because of the Americans killed in 26/11.Ajay Sahani, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management
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