Jamaatud Dawa fumed as India welcomed the announcement of up to $10 million bounty on its chief Hafiz Saeed and an associate on Tuesday.
Islamabad, meanwhile, offered little response.
The bounty was announced by US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in India on Monday and posted on the US government’s Rewards for Justice website.
Washington also posted a $2 million reward for Saeed’s brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, described as second-in-command of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant outfit that New Delhi has blamed for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.
Saeed said the move has come at the behest of India, and his party announced it will initiate legal consultations to determine if the bounty can be challenged in the international court.
“It reflects the commitment of India and the US to bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It also sends a strong signal to LeT and also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism. The foreign secretary expressed India’s sincere appreciation for US step to target Saeed and Makki as well as LeT,” the statement added.
‘At India’s behest’
The JuD chief, meanwhile, appeared on television channels and railed against India on Tuesday.
“The action against me is also an act of terrorism and America is doing it at the behest of India,” Saeed told AFP.
He said the US had slapped him with the bounty because of a campaign he was leading to stop the Pakistani government from reopening Nato supply routes to Afghanistan.
“The movement that we have organised after the formation of Defence of Pakistan Council is becoming very effective and it is impacting Parliament’s decision about Nato supplies and this factor is disturbing for America and that is why they have announced a bounty on me,” he added.
Challenging the decision
Saeed’s party said it will initiate legal consultations to determine if it can challenge the announcement in the international court.
“Our legal experts will soon meet to consider if it is possible … we will use this option, though we don’t take this seriously,” JuD Information Secretary Hafiz Muhammad Masood told The Express Tribune.
Masood, however, did not explicitly say whether the JuD would also challenge the decision in an American court as well.
“We don’t expect justice from them. For Americans, they consider a person innocent unless proven guilty … but for Muslims, they think [of] them [as] guilty unless proven innocent,” he said when asked about approaching US courts.
However, international law expert Ahmer Bilal Soofi told The Express Tribune that the JuD would have to move an American court if it wants to challenge the decision.
“Had it been through the UN Security Council, it would have been challenged in the International Court of Justice … but because it is a decision by an American official agency, a domestic court in the US is the only legal platform where it can be raised,” Soofi said.
There was little reaction to the announcement from Islamabad.
“We have not received any official communication in this regard,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Geo television.
“I cannot comment on it until there is official verification. Let us say that if it is confirmed, then we can ask them on what basis the bounty has been announced,” Malik said, adding that he has requested the foreign ministry for confirmation.
‘Hastening judicial process’
The bounty has been in the works for quite some time and the reward announcement may hasten the judicial process by making citizens come forward, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday.
The reward is for information leading to his arrest or conviction, Nuland said at a press briefing.
“There is a review process to determine if offering bounty in this case is likely to lead to any results … the announcements were posted when the process was complete,” she said.
Hinting that this issue is likely to come up during Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides’ visit to Pakistan starting on Wednesday, she said the US has been in communication with Pakistan on this issue while the affected government [referring to India] has been advised, but is not consulted in the process. (With additional input from agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.