Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A Bounty for a Man Whose Whereabouts are Known

Recently the United States has publicly offered a bounty of $10 million for Hafiz Mohammed Saeeed. Saeed is the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and now one of the leaders of the Defense of Pakistan council, a very conservative group that deplores American involvement in Pakistan and holds public rallies urging Pakistani government to continue the closing of the NATO supply routes and the discontinuance of the drone program. In response to the bounty, Saeed stated "I am not hiding in caves and mountains, I am here in Rawalpindi", following up that the U.S. government should give him the $10 million dollars for welfare programs within Balochistan since he has informed the U.S. of his own whereabouts. How this plays out will be interesting.

The timing and purpose of this bounty seems odd. Saeed is a well-known militant who is respected amongst many Pakistani people. For the U.S. to put pressure on Pakistan with this bounty, in a time when the general Pakistani populace is against the U.S., is not beneficial to the Pakistan government. There is no way that the Pakistan government will arrest Saeed. First, because the government would be seen by the populous as a puppet acting on the U.S.' will. Secondly, because Pakistan would be implicitly admitting that a Pakistan cell had perpetrated the attack on Mumbai, perhaps with ISI support. If the U.S. wants to reopen NATO lines, use Pakistan for drone operations and have a cooperative relationship in rebuilding Afghanistan, this pressure does not help to reach those goals.

Moreover, the United States has been operating drones within Pakistan for the past few years. If we saw fit to render Saeed ineffective, we could have. Now though, that option is off the table. If we decide to unilaterally kill Saeed, perhaps by unamnned vehicle, we will create more extremist enemies. And although Saeed is believed to have helped in the orchestration of the Mumbai attacks, this was a terrorist group who was not targeting the United States. Is it beneficial to the United States to catch the gaze of another extremist group? Overall, it may have made sense to kill Saeed, but why does the United States have to make this desire public?

Alas, does this recreate tension between India and Pakistan, igniting problems of the past? Obviously the Mumbai attack is not one that will be forgotten, and political clamor in the U.S. for answers also exists because five Americans passed away in those attacks. Justice should be paid, but the question is how. Retroactive justice is important, but this type of publicity for it is questionable.

If the United States and India believed that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was involved in the bombing, at the behest of Saeed, they should HAVE continued their efforts to garner intelligence on LeT and target Saeed without publicly announcing their intent to do so. This approach may have proved more useful if done more quietly and Pakistan may have been more likely to help. Instead, Pakistan cannot help the U.S. as much as we may hope, because the political consequences could be great for them. All one knows is that the U.S. and Saeed would make horrible participants in a hide and seek game, the U.S. offering and exorbitant amount of money to find someone who chooses not to hide.

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