Hafiz Mohammad Saeed said he’s not in hiding. In fact, he said, he would be Lahore tomorrow, if the United States wanted to capture him.
Saeed made the statements a day after the United States offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. As NPR’s Jackie Northam reported yesterday, the 61-year-old was the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the largest militant Islamist groups in South Asia, and he’s suspected of organizing the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.
Today, Saeed held a news conference in Islamabad to mock the bounty for a man whose location doesn’t appear to be a mystery.
“I am here, I am visible,” he told reporters, according to the AP. “America should give that reward money to me. I will be in Lahore tomorrow. America can contact me whenever it wants to.”
The AP adds:
“Analysts have said Pakistan is unlikely to arrest Saeed, founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, because of his alleged links with the country’s intelligence agency and the political danger of doing Washington’s bidding in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant.
“Saeed has used his high-profile status in recent months to lead a protest movement against U.S. drone strikes and the resumption of NATO supplies for troops in Afghanistan sent through Pakistan. Islamabad closed its borders to the supplies in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
“Hours before Saeed spoke, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides met Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in the nearby capital, Islamabad, for talks about rebuilding the two nation’s relationship. In a brief statement, Nides did not mention the bounty offer but reaffirmed America’s commitment to ‘work through’ the challenges bedeviling ties.”
That Saeed is not in hiding is obvious. In Jackie’s report yesterday, analysts told her Pakistan could arrest Saeed whenever it wants but the politics around this are complex and even more complicated since the relations between Pakistan and the U.S. are strained. In arresting Saeed, Pakistan doesn’t want to be seen as helping the U.S. And on the other hand, while the United States wants to restore its relationship with Pakistan, this bounty could be seen as sending a message that there are some things it won’t negotiate on.