Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters Tahir Ali in Islamabad
While holding an open press conference under the umbrella of Defence Council of Pakistan in Rawalpindi, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the head of Jamaat ud Dawa, has not only mocked the United States, but the DCP in a joint declaration termed the Americans as 'slaves of Indian government' that acts in accordance with the second's vested interests.
A smiling Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, 61, appeared before the press and termed the US bounty of $10 million as the extent of frustration over a visible defeat in Afghanistan. Saeed said, "It is impossible to target me in a unilateral attack, similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, because I am all available and not hiding in the caves."
Wearing his routine dress of white colour shalwar-kameez, and a white religious cap with a grey waist coat, Saeed appeared calm. "It's the biggest joke in the history that the US has made," Saeed teased.
Even if it is not a joke, it at least seems to be a little strange, as a day before the US issued the bounty for information leading to his arrest, the JuD chief appeared at a press conference packed with dozens of journalists in Flashman Hotel in Rawalpindi, which is at a stone's throw distance from Pakistan's general headquarter.
'US want to pressurise us to change our stance on the NATO supply route'
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
Both Hafiz Saeed and DCP are much against the reopening of NATO supply route via Pakistan, as well as the drone strikes in the tribal areas. According to Saeed with the decision to place money on his head, the US wants to gain two objectives simultaneously -- one, to please India; and two, to hush DCP's voice.
"The US has placed the head money to please India and to pressurise us to change our stance on the NATO supply route -- but it would never happen," Saeed said.
Saeed also slammed the Pakistani government and has demanded that it should lodge a strong protest against the US.
"Neither had I contacted the government nor did they make any contact with me, but it should be the government's responsibility to take care of its citizens. The silence of (Pakistan) foreign office in this regard is condemnable. It is a clear attack on our sovereignty and the foreign office should call on the US ambassador and lodge a severe protest in this regard," he suggested.
However immediately after the press conference concluded, Pakistan foreign office issued a short statement noting that the proof supporting the allegations leveled against Hafiz Saeed should be provided to Pakistan.
"The judiciary in Pakistan is free and it takes decisions according to the constitution," the statement added.
'It's shameful that India's doesn't respect Pak courts'
India has repeatedly termed Hafiz Saeed as the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. However, the man himself has repeatedly refused his or JuD's involvement in that carnage.
Saeed said, "JuD is a welfare organisation and has nothing to do with any terrorist activities. India has sent four dossiers against me and I have faced the Pakistani high court and supreme court that declared me innocent. It's shameful that India does not respect Pakistani courts."
There is a common perception that the DPC is an extension of intelligence agencies. Former Inter Services Intelligence chief Gen Hamid Gul is also one of the candid and prominent members of the council who roars against the US openly at every platform.
"It's a wrong impression to declare us an extension of ISI or any other agency," Maulana Samiul Haq, chairman of DPC, however, had told the media.
Talking about the bounty on Hafiz Saeed, Samiul Haq warned, "Hafiz Saeed is ready to be tried under the Pakistani constitution. However, Americans can also send their observers. If any unilateral strike happens, our response will not be only limited to mere condemnation."
'US has no material against Saeed'
Talking to Rediff.com, journalist Mubarak Virk said, "The announcement of the bounty over Hafiz's head has got the Pakistani government into a tough position. In this regard Pakistan had not issued any clear statement that shows Islamabad's stand over the issue; it is strange that straight after the US announcement the head of JuD appeared and held a press conference."
Some critics are of the view that the announcement is just a pressure tactic from the US to hush the voice of DPC against the resumption of NATO supply routes. On Wednesday US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides while leading a delegation met with Pakistani authorities, including Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, to normalise the tense relations between the two countries, but there was no mention of the Hafiz Saeed issue.
Meanwhile, a joint declaration of DCP, which also issued during the press meet, reads, "The American people aren't free citizens. Earlier Israelis were making decisions of their lives, now the said job has been taken by the Indians. The US has no material against Saeed and it is doing it on the behest of India. The president of Pakistan should cancel the upcoming visit to India; otherwise we will lodge a protest against that too."