The ameer of the banned jihadi organisation Jamaatul Daawa Hafiz Mohammad Saeed seems to be the prime suspect behind a threat letter, apparently sent by Lashkar-e-Tayiba and warning the Pakistani authorities to blow up the recently inaugurated Attari check post at Wagah border near Lahore. Amir Mir reports
The letter, which has been posted on the heels of the upcoming home secretary level talks between India and Pakistan, has set alarm bells ringing for decision-makers on both sides of the border who believed that the two-sided Indo-Pak trade could be a first step towards normalization of wobbly ties between the two countries.
Well-placed sources in the ministry of interior have confirmed beefing up security measures at the Wagah border, especially at the Attari Integrated check post, after receiving a letter from Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which threatened to blow up the AIC as a mark of protest over the recent decision of the Pakistan government to begin bilateral trade with India without resolving the Jammu Kashmir dispute.
The Attari check post on Wagah border was inaugurated jointly on April 13 by Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram and Pakistan Commerce Minister Makhdoom Ameen Faheem to boost trade between the two nuclear armed South Asian neighbours.
The interior ministry sources claim that the LeT has hurled a similar threat at Indian Border Security Forces which has instantly tightened security measures at Attari check post on the Indian side of the Wagah border to counter any untoward incident.
But the inspector General of the Indian Border Security Force Aditya Mishra has said there was nothing to worry about the situation since the threat call was issued on the Pakistan side to Pakistan officials posted at the Attari and that it has nothing to do with the Indian side.
The LeT threat has come against the backdrop of some recent steps taken by Pakistan and India to normalise trade relations, including Islamabad's in-principle decision to give India Most Favoured Nation status by the beginning of next year.
Feared for its guerrilla actions in Jammu Kashmir and known for the notorious suicide attack on the Red Fort in New Delhi, the LeT or the Army of the Pure is blamed for carrying out the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which left 166 people dead.
Founded in 1991 by Saeed, who was a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore at that time, the LeT has proven to be the most dangerous jihadi organisation operating out of Pakistan and fighting the Indian security forces.
However, Saeed denies having anything to do with the LeT after having stepped down as its founding ameer way back in December 2001.
The bullying correspondence coincides with Indian Union Home Secretary RK Singh's May 16, 2012 statement that India would take up the issue of Saeed during the upcoming secretary level talks being held in Islamabad on May 24-25.
Key decisions on issuance of multiple-entry and reporting-free visas for businessmen from India and Pakistan are expected to be taken during the talks.
Asked whether the US bounty announced for Saeed and the sanctions imposed by the US on underworld don Dawood Ibrahim aides would mount pressure on Pakistan to proceed against them, Singh said, "India will raise the issue of fugitives living in Pakistan. Saeed is very much on the agenda of Islamabad talks."
On the other hand, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani stated recently that there was insufficient evidence to arrest Saeed.
"You arrest him; that means he will be released by the courts. For the courts you need more evidence," Gilani told the Daily Telegraph in London.
Gilani was asked why did his government was not proceeding against Saeed in the wake of the US decision to offer $10 million reward that could lead to his arrest or conviction.
Lahore high court Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed has already given the federal government one last chance to respond (by May 21) to a writ petition filed by Saeed, seeking the federal government's protection against the bounty placed on his head by the US.
Well-placed officials in the Pakistani agencies are trying to establish if the Saeed-led JuD has anything to do with the threat letter, apparently sent by the LeT and carrying a warning to blow up the Attari Integrated check post.
The officials reminded that as Indian and Pakistani businessmen were discussing ways to boost bilateral trade at a five-star hotel in Lahore, Saeed led a rally in the provincial metropolis on May 8 and warned Pakistani traders against doing business with India.
The protest came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had described Saeed as one of the principal architects of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In his May 8 address, Saeed said some elements were conspiring against Pakistan in the name of forging peace with India.
"They are interested to boost economic ties with neighbouring countries, they should prefer China. I want to make it clear to the Pakistani businessmen that we are not against trade with neighbouring countries. But I appeal to them, do not do it with India," he had said.
Saeed maintained that the Pakistani government, political leadership and businessmen should tell India that there will be no peace and no trade unless disputes over Jammu Kashmir and sharing of river waters are resolved."We are against granting MFN status to India and the opening of the Wagah border trade route," Saeed had added.