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Pakistan rejects US bounty on Hafiz Saeed

05 April, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: Reacting to the US bounty on Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Pakistan on Wednesday said the United States must provide "concrete evidence" if it wanted Islamabad to act against Saeed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Islamabad would rather be presented with evidence about Hafiz Saeed than have a public discussion on the matter. "In a democratic country like Pakistan, where judiciary is independent, evidence against anyone must withstand judicial scrutiny," the spokesman added in a statement.

The United States on Monday slapped a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the banned organisation accused of masterminding the carnage that killed 166 people in Mumbai four years ago. The reward was announced by US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in India on Monday.

Meanwhile, Saeed made a defiant public appearance mocking his US bounty. He said he was ready to face "any American court" to answer charges. The 62-year-old former engineering and Arabic professor appeared on stage at a specially-convened press conference in the Flashman Hotel, close to the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. "If the United States wants to contact me, I am present, they can contact me. I am also ready to face any American court, or wherever there is proof against me," he told reporters in the hotel named after a fictional colonial hero.

Saeed lives openly in Pakistan and has spent recent months making a number of high-profile appearances at demonstrations calling on the government not to reopen NATO supply lines to Afghanistan, which have been closed since November.

He mocked the idea of offering a bounty for someone who lives so openly. "Americans seriously lack information. Don't they know where I go and where I live and what I do?" he said. "These rewards are usually announced for people who are hiding in mountains or caves. I wish the Americans would give this reward money to me. The US decision is aimed at silencing the Defence Council of Pakistan and to ensure resumption of supplies through backdoor channels and increase interference in Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani rightwing, religious and extremist groups have called for nationwide protests to denounce the US bounty on Saeed. "On Friday there would be countrywide protest," said Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of the Defence Council of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the US said on Wednesday it was looking for evidence that could be used to put Hafiz Saeed behind bars.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Washington was working to assist Pakistan and provide the country with the evidence to arrest Saeed and try him in a court of law.

Toner said the US had intelligence and information but not "concrete evidence" – as demanded by Pakistan – that might assist a judicial inquiry to prosecute the Jamaatud Dawa chief for his alleged role in 2008 Mumbai attacks.

"We are trying to get information that can be used to put this gentleman behind bars," Toner said. He said the US announcement of $10 million bounty on Saeed did not reflect a vote of no-confidence in the Pakistani government's ability to curb militancy.

End.

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