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Bounty has boosted Hafiz Saeed's image: Pak media

Source: PTI
April 06, 2012 16:58 IST
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The $ 10 million bounty announced by the United States for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a "blatant pressure tactic" and has boosted his image as the leader of resistance against the Americans, the Pakistani media said on Friday.

Describing the bounty that has made Saeed one of the world's most wanted men as "peculiar", the influential Dawn newspaper said in its editorial that the measure could be taken advantage of by those who are opposed to the normalisation of Pakistan-US relations.

"A rather blatant pressure tactic, the American move also has the potential to backfire: the forces holding up the normalisation of ties with the US now have yet more ammunition to argue that the US is no friend of Pakistan and what it really seeks is an alliance with India to try and squeeze Pakistan," said the editorial.

The Express Tribune, in its editorial, 'The curious case of Hafiz Saeed', warned that the US move could help boost his image among his followers. "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," it said. "The irony is that in announcing the bounty on Hafiz Saeed, the US has ended up adding to his fame, especially among his loyal constituency," it said.

Responding to the bounty offered under the Rewards for Justice programme, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said the case of Saeed is an "internal issue". He said the US should provide any evidence it has against Saeed so that it could be examined by Pakistani courts. However, The Express Tribune noted that the US "mishandled the situation" because it had to clarify that the bounty was not for Saeed's "whereabouts but for information that would lead to his conviction". The daily further noted that Saeed had "done anything but" hunker down and stay quiet since the reward was announced.

Over the past few days, Saeed has repeatedly spoken to the media and appeared on TV news channels, mocking the bounty and goading the US to act against him. The media noted that Saeed had been placed under house arrest several times in the past, including after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that were blamed on the LeT.

However, he was freed on every occasion due to lack of evidence, the media pointed out. "The fact is that the Pakistan government, and the international community as a whole, has been trying to nab the JuD chief for some time, but without getting any of the charges against him to stick," The Express Tribune said.

Declaring the LeT a terrorist group has had little effect in Pakistan, "where the group has been able to maintain plausible deniability simply by changing its name", it noted. However, the bounty does increase pressure on Pakistan to deal with Saeed and "the only way forward would be for the government to make a case against Saeed that holds up to judicial scrutiny", the Tribune said.

"After all, when the JuD chief taunts the US government to contact him in Lahore -- since he is a free man in Pakistan -- he is also thumbing his nose at the country's civilian government which has tried and failed in arresting him for alleged involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks," the Tribune said.

The Dawn cautioned that the temptation on the Pakistani side to play to the galleries and "rant about defiance of the US will still be strong" but that would "always remain a bad idea". It added, "Pakistan really cannot afford to be on the wrong side of that equation."

The Daily Times, in its editorial, warned that the bounty for Saeed had "injected a new destabilising element in the tense Pakistan-US ties". It warned that it may be difficult to gather credible evidence or witnesses against Saeed because people like him "have powerful protectors and friends in the intelligence community, which sees them as 'strategic assets'."

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