Such negative messages will increase the trust deficit: Gilani

Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani is apprehensive that the U.S. announcement of a bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jama'at-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed would further strain the bilateral relations as Parliament struggles to find a way of mending fences with Washington.

Addressing the joint session of Parliament, Mr. Gilani said it was “unfortunate” that the U.S. should have announced the bounty at a time when the legislature was trying to find a way to put the derailed relationship back on track.

“Such negative messages will increase the trust deficit at a time when Parliament is engaged in framing new rules of engagement with the U.S,” he said in view of the manner in which all political parties are reluctant to be seen advocating a re-engagement with the U.S.

Asking the U.S. to provide concrete proof against Saeed, the Prime Minister called it “our internal matter,” adding that Pakistan has an independent judiciary that can take care of any charges against him.

“Give us concrete proof” has been the Pakistani refrain since the U.S. announcement and it was repeated on Friday after External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said in Bangalore that India had given Pakistan every detail of Saeed's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Reacting to this, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said: “There is nothing concrete and maintainable. From its own Mumbai trial experience, India knows well that hearsay cannot substitute for hard evidence. It is only the latter that can withstand judicial scrutiny.”

Meanwhile, JuD supporters across the country organised post-Friday prayer rallies in support of Saeed and demanded that President Asif Ali Zardari cancel his visit to India on Sunday. A call for protests after Friday prayers was given on Wednesday by the Difa-e-Council Pakistan (DPC) — an umbrella organisation of right wing outfits opposed to the U.S. and India.

Given the belligerent response of the JuD to the bounty announcement, the media here has begun to comment on how the U.S. move was proving to be counter-productive as it was helping Saeed build his own profile.

The bounty has given the DPC — cobbled together in response to the NATO attack on military outposts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border last November — a rallying point just when it had begun losing momentum.