Pakistan’s PM Criticizes US Bounty on Militant

Posted April 5th, 2012 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistan is criticizing the U.S. decision to place a $10 million bounty on the founder of a militant group blamed for attacks in India.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed founded Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, which allegedly plotted the 2008 terrorist attack in India's financial hub, Mumbai, that killed 166 people — including six Americans. The United States announced the reward for information leading to Saeed's arrest or conviction earlier this week.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday that “the United States should have informed Pakistan before taking such a move because there is no solid evidence against Saeed.” He added that if the U.S. has solid evidence, it should share it with Pakistan, which has an independent judiciary.

Mr. Gilani made the comments to parliament, which re-convened to debate a new framework for ties with the United States following the mistaken killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a cross-border NATO strike last November.

Instead of taking up the review of U.S. relations, opposition and religious party lawmakers Thursday focused on the U.S. bounty on Saeed, slamming the decision as interference in Pakistan's internal affairs.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it needed “concrete evidence” to move legally against the 62-year-old Saeed. He operates openly in Pakistan, appearing on talk shows and addressing public rallies in which he criticizes the United States.

Saeed has mocked Washington for placing a bounty on someone whose whereabouts are already known.

The announcement of a U.S. bounty on Saeed came as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Islamabad. Nides' visit is aimed at repairing diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Gilani told parliament on Thursday that he had raised the issue of the U.S. bounty on Saeed with Nides “and told him that parliament is discussing new rules of engagement with the U.S. and at this stage, positive messages should be emanating from U.S. and not negative, because it will widen the trust deficit.”

In recent months, Saeed has used his high-profile status among right-wing groups in Pakistan to help lead a protest movement against Pakistan reopening its ground route for NATO supplies into Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities closed the border crossings following the coalition strike that killed Pakistani troops late last year. Parliament is taking up the issue in its review of ties with the U.S.