Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

The hunt for Hafiz Saeed

By S K Chatterji
April 20, 2012

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The $10 million bounty placed on Hafiz Saeed by the Americans may have been barely noticed in most capital cities but it definitely had an impact in New Delhi and caused a furore in Islamabad. India and Pakistan are the two countries most concerned with Saeed’s health and activities, although for different reasons.

There is no debate among those who fight insurgencies that targeting their leadership pays disproportionate dividends. With such organisations having no democratic culture, it is the personality of the leader or an individual that guides the organisation’s approach. Eliminating such leaders can create a fair degree of disorientation till the new leadership asserts itself. During this process, there is also the possibility of power struggles, break-ups and feuds leading to fragmentation and polarization within the organisation.

Sustained targeting of the leadership deters the emergence of new leaders, with contenders acutely aware of the possible costs. It also has an immediate impact on the leaders’ movement and media interaction, thereby restricting their influence. Of course, media interactions can be organised in secret locations but they cannot be too safe en masse.

Saeed, suspected of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attack, did taunt the U.S. in a press conference and challenged the Americans to attack him, knowing that the crowded streets of Karachi provide a shield against a drone attack. But he remains vulnerable to those who could be tempted by the $10 million bounty. Notwithstanding the allegiance to the perverted radical philosophy that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or its ilk promote, money is an important motivator for many in the cadres.

India’s response, though very positive, does bring into sharp focus a gaping shortfall in the capabilities of the Indian intelligence agencies. The activities of the LeT and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Saeed had raised the former while the latter is but a front organisation for the LeT) are focussed primarily against India. Their prime objective concerns Jammu and Kashmir. It’s only very recently that the LeT has developed the wherewithal to be a threat to western powers, especially their interests in Afghanistan.

With pinpoint targeting and the elimination of leaders being accepted as force multipliers in the war against terror, there has been reason all along for India to develop such capabilities and display it to effect, for it to serve as a deterrent.

However, the sagacity of such logic has not given the necessary impetus to adequately acquire human intelligence assets, technology and the weapon systems required.

The muted Pakistani response and the fact Saeed is moving around freely even after the bounty was announced is another pointer to state sponsorship of the terrorist establishment. There have been no comments from the military, but hardliners have used the anti-American sentiment in the streets to ramp up their vitriol.

Any nation that needs to combat terrorism has to do so on its own strength, notwithstanding domestic political compulsions. New Delhi welcoming a bounty announced in Washington for Saeed is surely inadequate. In the case of Pakistan, the situation is further complicated with the militants being also perceived as a strategic ally by the powers that be.

Comments

Pakistan cannot apprehend and hand over Hafiz Saeed to either India or United States for these reasons:

1. Saeed was a key figure in the former years of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an organization created in 1990 by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.

The military establishment in Pakistan, after losing three wars with India, realized that it was not possible to win a conventional war, decided to engage in asymmetrical warfare, employing terrorism as an instrument of state. Saeed, who lost 17 family members during 1947 Partition, was the perfect person to lead the LeT.

2. Saeed is a paid employee of the Pakistan government.
Saeed continues to run Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a political arm of LeT, as its ‘amir’ (or head). This explains the attempt by the Pakistan government to portray Saeed as a rehabilitated extremist by extolling his role in the de-radicalization program reportedly performed on a ‘pro bono’ basis.

3. Saeed is a hero in Pakistan.
As mastermind of the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and Mumbai massacres in 2008, Saeed is an acclaimed soldier of Islam to the masses in Pakistan for his role in the death of over 170 Hindus who are considered to be ‘kafirs’ (non-believers); there are many in Pakistan who believe killing a Hindu is a moral duty. It is not politically possible for the Pakistan government to detain Saeed – the Pakistani masses are willing to protect him – just as they sheltered and protected bin Laden for over 10 years.

4. Saeed is privy to vital information on operatives of LeT in Pakistan and abroad as former head of LeT; he is too vital to the ISI.

If apprehended, Saeed can provide a plethora of information such as LeT and al-Qaeda links among Pakistani expatriates in United States and Europe – information that can prevent future terrorist attacks, such as the one attempted by Faisal Shahzad in Times Square in May 2010.

However, Saeed, like bin Laden, is venerated in Pakistan – nobody can touch him.

There was a $25 million bounty on bin Laden’s head; there were no takers while bin Laden was in Pakistan. Saeed is supremely confident that there are no takers for the $10 million dollars bounty on his head.

Posted by PenRumi | Report as abusive
 

Pakistan cannot apprehend and hand over Hafiz Saeed to either India or United States for these reasons:

1. Saeed was a key figure in the former years of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an organization created in 1990 by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.

The military establishment in Pakistan, after losing three wars with India, realized that it was not possible to win a conventional war, decided to engage in asymmetrical warfare, employing terrorism as an instrument of state. Saeed, who lost 17 family members during 1947 Partition, was the perfect person to lead the LeT.

2. Saeed is a paid employee of the Pakistan government.
Saeed continues to run Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a political arm of LeT, as its ‘amir’ (or head). This explains the attempt by the Pakistan government to portray Saeed as a rehabilitated extremist by extolling his role in the de-radicalization program reportedly performed on a ‘pro bono’ basis.

3. Saeed is a hero in Pakistan.
As mastermind of the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and Mumbai massacres in 2008, Saeed is an acclaimed soldier of Islam to the masses in Pakistan for his role in the death of over 170 Hindus who are considered to be ‘kafirs’ (non-believers); there are many in Pakistan who believe killing a Hindu is a moral duty. It is not politically possible for the Pakistan government to detain Saeed – the Pakistani masses are willing to protect him – just as they sheltered and protected bin Laden for over 10 years.

4. Saeed is privy to vital information on operatives of LeT in Pakistan and abroad as former head of LeT; he is too vital to the ISI.

If apprehended, Saeed can provide a plethora of information such as LeT and al-Qaeda links among Pakistani expatriates in United States and Europe – information that can prevent future terrorist attacks, such as the one attempted by Faisal Shahzad in Times Square in May 2010.

However, Saeed, like bin Laden, is venerated in Pakistan – nobody can touch him.

There was a $25 million bounty on bin Laden’s head; there were no takers while bin Laden was in Pakistan. Saeed is supremely confident that there are no takers for the $10 million dollars bounty on his head.

Posted by PenRumi | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  • Editors & Key Contributors