Foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit says U.S. has no evidence against Lashkar leader

The United States' decision to offer a $10-million bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has led Pakistan to claim vindication of its long-standing position that there was insufficient evidence for it to prosecute the alleged 26/11 perpetrator.

“Look,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told journalists on Wednesday, “I think we're trying to, you know, get information that can be used to put this gentleman behind bars. There is information, there's intelligence that, you know, is not necessarily usable in a court of law.”

Limitations

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Mr. Toner's remarks made “clear that even the U.S. does not possess concrete evidence against Saeed.” Pakistan had taken a “principled and legal position.” “We should be mindful of each other's limitations,” Mr. Basit continued, “and understand that all such issues have to be addressed through a legal procedure.”

Bruce Reidel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who now works at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, offered a different perspective: the bounty “adds more fire to a relationship that can be called severely dysfunctional.” “The next time the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence travels to Washington, the U.S. officials now have the obligation to raise this with them. I hope the administration has a plan for what happens when the Pakistanis say no.”

India has long claimed that it has provided enough evidence to the Pakistani authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against Saeed. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the government had provided Pakistan with “more than enough material” to detain and interrogate Saeed for his role in 26/11.

“Pakistan's Interior Minister has the habit of saying every 15 days that there is not enough evidence,” Mr. Chidambaram said in 2009, soon after Islamabad first claimed India had provided insufficient material to justify prosecuting Mr. Saeed. “If the Pakistan government says that it can't investigate, why don't they let the FBI investigate who are willing to do it. If they can't investigate, allow us [India] to do the investigation.”

Earlier, the former National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, said India had provided Pakistan with “Grade 1 evidence” in a series of dossiers. India had also provided Pakistan with recordings of several of Saeed's public speeches, arguing they violated Pakistan's own hate-speech laws.

Never charged

Pakistan has detained Saeed several times under public order regulations, but never charged him with a role in organising 26/11 or other terrorist attacks. Pakistan's Federal Investigations Agency says it has been unable to corroborate the testimonies of 26/11 attack team member Ajmal Kasab and Lashkar intelligence operative David Coleman Headley that Saeed had the overall control of their operations.

The FIA has also been unable to arrest several Lashkar and Inter-Services Intelligence operatives charged by India and the U.S.

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa, proscribed by the United Nations in 2008, remains active in Pakistan. Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Haroon said in December 2008 that his country would “proscribe the JuD and take other consequential actions, as required, including the freezing of [its] assets.”