Hafiz Saeed not to hide after US slaps bounty

Lahore: After apparent initial jitters on US slapping a USD 10 million bounty on his head, Pakistan`s JuD chief and an alleged 26/11 Mumbai mastermind, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed had decided not to go into hiding. Saeed`s "friends in certain quarters" had initially advised him to go underground for some time after the US announced the bounty on him last week, sources said.

A JuD leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the outfit felt it would reflect badly on Saeed and JuD if he went underground. The support from almost all political and religious parties of Pakistan, also may have weighed with the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder not to go underground.

The JuD leader claimed apart from the leaders of the DPC, Saeed had the support of mainstream parties like PML-N, PML-Q, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.

"The leaders of over 40 parties who are with Saeed under the banner of the Defa-e-Pakistan Council put their weight behind him and asked him to motivate the people against the US and India for their designs against Pakistan," a Jamaat-ud-Dawah leader told PTI by phone.

"Different people will interpret it differently," the leader said. He further said, "Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of PML-Q, Javed Hashmi of Imran Khan`s party and Fazlur Rehman of the JUI phoned Saeed had expressed solidarity with him."

Following such support from political, religious and other leaders, "no one would like to go into hiding" the JuD leader said. Saeed, who was placed under house arrest for about six months after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, currently heads the JuD. The UN Security Council has declared the JuD a front for the LeT. The JuD chief has become very active after the US announced the bounty for him.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan said if President Asif Ali Zardari made any assurance to India regarding the issues of Kashmir or Saeed, the country "would not be bound by that". He claimed the President had no authority to alter Pakistan`s stand on Kashmir and that the people would not allow India to trade with Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

He has been touring Punjab province to address his supporters and mobilise them on the issue. "Yesterday, he was in Lahore and today he was in Sahiwal district, addressing his followers and motivating them against the US and India," remarked a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party.

Unlike other mainstream parties, the PPP, which is a liberal party, has not expressed solidarity with Saeed or the JuD at any level. The PPP leader, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the government should show seriousness in reining in banned groups if it was really interested in checking extremism in Pakistan.

"We have lost leaders like Benazir Bhutto and Salmaan Taseer to growing extremism. It is the duty of our party`s government not to succumb to any pressure in this regard. If we have evidence against Saeed as India claims, then we should not hesitate in presenting it in a court of law," the PPP leader said.

Addressing a gathering at the JuD`s headquarters at Chauburji in Lahore on Monday, Saeed said his group`s activists would work with other religious parties to foil every bid to reopen NATO supply routes that were closed last year. "The heads of people, who have already pledged they will make sacrifices for Allah, have no price. We will continue and strengthen our movement against the restoration of NATO supplies in collaboration with other religious parties," he said.

Pakistan`s religious forces would never accept pressure from the US on Pakistan to restore the supply routes, he said. The JuD wants to create awareness among the people of all countries about the "illicit activities" of the US and India against Islam and Pakistan, he claimed.