“We are not hiding in caves for bounties to be set on finding us. I think the US is frustrated because we are taking out countrywide protests against the resumption of NATO supplies and drone strikes,” LeT founder Saeed said.
“They (the US and India) want to see me hiding in the mountains but I will not fulfil their desire. The US move is aimed at this,” Saeed told PTI on phone from an undisclosed location.
He added, “I believe either the US has very little knowledge and is basing its decisions on wrong information being provided by India or they are just frustrated”.
Saeed said he believed the bounty offered for him under the US Rewards for Justice programme was an American attempt to tempt “mafia people” in Pakistan to “go after him”.
Saeed claimed the US move was prompted by the fact that he had been organising rallies against the reopening of NATO supply lines through Pakistan, which were closed after a cross-border attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
A bounty is usually offered for “those living in mountains and caves but not those who are among the people”. “I am among my people,” Saeed added.
The US had last night announced a USD 10 million bounty on the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief who is also the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
The move has been welcomed by India today, which said it sends a strong signal to LeT and its “patrons” that the international community remains united in combating terrorism.
Wendy Sherman, the US Undersecretary of State, said a USD 2 million bounty had been announced for Abul Rehman Makki, the brother-in-law of Saeed.
Meanwhile, a source in Punjab Police told PTI that Saeed had been asked by “certain quarters” to shift from his home in Lahore for the time being.
The founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba seems to have complied with this directive as his cell phone was switched off in the evening.
Saeed spent a busy day in Layyah, 300 km from Lahore, participating in events organised by the Defa-e-Pakistan Council, a grouping of over 40 hardline and extremist groups.
The JuD chief further said that though the US “had pleased India” by offering a reward for him, the move was linked to American concerns about the rise of the DPC.
“The US has been unnerved since the DPC held large rallies in different cities. The US knows that in the face of the DPC's opposition, the NATO supply routes cannot be opened,” he claimed.
“I want to make it clear to the US that the Pakistani parliament is now under immense pressure and it cannot recommend the opening of the NATO supply routes,” he said.
Pakistan had closed the supply routes after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
A joint session of parliament will resume debating proposals to reopen the routes on April 5.
Saeed's son Talha said the JuD had serious concerns over the US bounty but “we will fight it out legally”.
He said:“Allah will protect Hafiz sahib. However, we are taking no chances regarding the security of my father,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he is yet to receive any official intimation from the US and noted that Saeed had been put under house arrest but was given bail by the Supreme Court.
“We should have been taken into confidence as to what has happened,” he said when asked about the US putting a reward on Saeed's head.