US Offers $10 Million for Pakistan Islamist
April 03, 2012
Ayaz Gul | Islamabad
The United States has offered a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, a former Arabic professor and founder of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and offered up to $2 million for the group's deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki.
India accuses Lashkar-e-Taiba (L.e.T.) of planning the November 2008 attacks on its financial capital, Mumbai, that left 166 people dead, including six Americans.
Saeed founded the group in the late 1980s allegedly with the help of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, to support the separatist movement in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. L.e.T. is considered one of the largest and best-trained militant groups of its kind.
In December of 2001, Washington designated L.e.T. a foreign terrorist organization, and Pakistan also banned the organization in 2002, mainly under U.S. pressure.
After the ban, Saeed formed an Islamic charity called Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is widely believed to be a front for the outlawed L.e.T.
U.S. officials say L.e.T. is "dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan."
While Saeed has been arrested in the past and barred from public speaking, the Pakistani cleric remains a public figure.
Authorities in Pakistan's Punjab province, where Saeed is based, detained him shortly after the Mumbai attacks to investigate suspected links to the siege. But a court later ordered the government to release him, citing insufficient evidence.
Since then, Saeed has addressed large public rallies and occasionally appears on television talk shows. Most of his speeches are directed against America and India, but he has also recently waded into the ongoing domestic debate in parliament over ties with Washington.
Last month, the L.e.T. founder spoke during public rallies across Pakistan, which were organized by the recently-formed Defense of Pakistan Council, an alliance of around 40 religious and right-wing groups. The council is strongly opposed to the restoration of NATO supply lines that Islamabad closed following November’s cross-border coalition airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Addressing a rally in front of the Pakistani parliament last week, Saeed said the NATO supply routes should never be reopened, calling it "tantamount to shackling Pakistan and throwing it in front of the Americans."
He called on Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief to consider their oath to protect Pakistan and said they should resign instead of approving a deal.
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