Breaking its silence on the U.S. decision to announce a $10 million bounty for the arrest and conviction of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan on Wednesday evening said it would prefer to receive concrete evidence to proceed legally in the matter instead of engaging in a public discussion on this issue.
In a statement issued here to a slew of queries on the bounty announcement, the Foreign Office said: “In a democratic country like Pakistan, where the judiciary is independent, evidence against anyone must withstand judicial scrutiny.”
As for Saeed, he remained gung-ho — sarcastically seeking the bounty for himself at a crowded press conference in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, while the JuD has decided to approach the court to seek protection for him under the Constitution.
The Foreign Office statement, coupled with Saeed's press conference and multiple appearances on various television news channels on Tuesday, made it clear that the Pakistan government was not going to proceed against him immediately and the JuD chief appeared confident about that.
The absence of actionable evidence against Saeed has been cited time and again by Pakistan for its failure to arrest him. Every time the matter has come up for discussion, Pakistan flags the fact that the full Bench of the Lahore High Court had acquitted him after he was detained in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack, of which he is alleged to be the mastermind. And, that the petition against this verdict filed by the federal government and the Punjab government was turned down by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court lawyer A.K. Dogar, who successfully represented Saeed in the terror attack case, has been tasked with the job of seeking judicial intervention to ensure protection for him.
In a related development, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) — the recently cobbled coalition of right-wing outfits — rallied around him as expected and described the bounty as pressure tactics to scare the DPC into giving up its agitation against the resumption of NATO supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan.
With Saeed sitting next to him, Maulana Sami-ul Haq, who is regarded as the father of the Taliban as he heads its alma mater the Darul Uloom Haqqani, was critical of the Foreign Office remaining silent on the announcement of head money for the JuD leader. The Foreign Office statement came several hours after the DPC press conference.
Repeating his refrain of the previous day that he was not a fugitive who was hiding in caves or mountains, Saeed questioned the rationale in announcing a bounty for a man whose whereabouts are known to all. “I will tell you where I am. Give me the head money,” he said, adding that he would spend it on Balochistan. Taunting his detractors who are happy over the announcement of head money, he said: “Today, I am here. Tomorrow, I will be in Lahore and the U.S. can contact me anywhere.”
Stating that Washington was unnerved by its failure in Afghanistan, he accused the U.S. of being blinded by its hatred for Islam. According to him, he had nothing to fear as his death was in the hands of God and not the U.S. He also maintained that no one from the government had contacted him till then but added that the Government of Pakistan has a constitutional responsibility towards all its citizens.