Bounty of USD 10 million on Hafiz Sayeed has implications
The United States government’s notification under the reward for justice programme for the present al Qaeda chief, Ayman al Zawahiri says: Wanted Ayman al-Zawahiri Up to USD 25 Million Reward. Al Zawahiri is believed to have served as an advisor and doctor to Osama bin Laden. Zawahiri has been indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.
A similar reward for justice notification in the case of Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban would show that he is wanted because the Taliban provided shelter to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 bombings, and though the Taliban were displaced from power in Afghanistan following operation Enduring Freedom, Mullah Omar is still at large, and represents a continuous threat to America and her allies. The reward offered in this case is USD 10 million.
These two terrorists have never come into the open after going into hiding following the American attacks in the wake of 9/11. They issue statements which are broadcast on terrorist networks giving messages to their followers, and threats to their enemies, chiefly the Americans and Israelis. The US President Barrack Obama is on record that they will not hesitate to repeat the Abbottabad operation if they received information about high value targets. Ayman al Zawahiri and Mullah Omar would certainly qualify as high value targets.
In the case of Hafiz Saeed, the reward for justice notification uses slightly different language. The notification has called for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, with the reward amount being USD 10 million. The notification traces the background of Saeed, and his role in the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
According to the notification, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a former professor of Arabic and Engineering, as well as the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a radical Ahl-e-Hadith Islamist organisation dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba. Saeed is suspected of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 166 people, including six American citizens.
India has issued an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Saeed for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Additionally, the United States Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated National under Executive Order 13224. Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 in December 2008. Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in December 2001. In April 2008, the United States designated Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation; similarly, the United Nations declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organisation in December 2008.
In the case of the first two terrorists, the United States is bound to use all its power and influence to neutralise them if they receive any specific information about their whereabouts and location. In the case of Hafiz Saeed, the United States is looking for information that would lead to his arrest and conviction in the Mumbai attacks. Conspiracies, by their very nature, are hatched in secrecy, and unless one of the conspirators turns in and discloses details of the conspiracy, its contours can be worked out only from the physical manifestation of the conspiracy. The LeT group which planned the attack is based in Pakistan.
We now know that David Coleman Headley @ Daood Gilani, was working for this group to target Mumbai, and since 2006, visited Mumbai several times to identify various targets and photograph and video graph them. He was reporting to the LeT’s Sajid Mir and the ISI’s Major Iqbal. There is David Headley’s statement linking Hafiz Saeed to the Mumbai attacks, given in the Chicago Court where he got indicted for his role in the Mumbai attacks. David Headley has also admitted to his role in the Mumbai attacks in detail before Indian investigators. Similarly, another conspirator in this sensational case is Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist who was caught alive by the Mumbai police in the course of the terrorist attacks. Ajmal Kasab has also given details of the role of Hafiz Saeed in the Mumbai attacks. But then both Headley and Kasab are accused in custody, and on this ground, Pakistan has been rejecting their testimony as inadmissible in their courts.
As the United States’ notification on Hafiz Saeed would show, India has got a Red Corner notice issued calling for the apprehension of Hafiz Saeed in connection with the Mumbai case. What are its implications? A Red Corner Notice is an Interpol Instrument issued for apprehending an absconding accused for the purpose of extradition, and all members of the Interpol are bound to comply with the instructions in the Notice. It is issued when the role of an absconding accused has been established in a crime, and the country issuing it has got a warrant of arrest against the accused from the Court that is trying the case. India indeed has got a Red Corner Notice issued by Interpol for Hafiz Saeed for his alleged role in the Mumbai terror attacks.
However, Hafiz Saeed is seen moving freely in Pakistan. Pakistan, which is a member of the Interpol, is bound to arrest Hafiz Saeed for the purpose of extraditing him to India. But here comes the rub, there is no extradition treaty between India and Pakistan. Apart from that, Pakistan has maintained that India has not provided evidence of Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks, once the statements of David Headley and Ajmal Kasab are dismissed as not admissible in Pakistani courts as they are accused in custody! If Hafiz Saeed moves out of Pakistan for any reason and visits any other member country of the Interpol, that country is duty bound to execute the Interpol Red Corner Notice, and arrest Saeed and intimate the government of India. The government of India will then have to produce prima facie evidence of Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks, to get him extradited to India. We did this successfully in the case of Abu Salem in connection with the Mumbai serial attacks of March, 1993, after Salem was apprehended in Portugal following India’s Red Corner Notice. Because of this, there is very little chance of Hafiz Saeed leaving Pakistan in the near future.
This is where the present United States Notification on Rewards for Justice comes in. Though Hafiz Saeed initially scoffed at the announcement, and said that he was not living in caves and mountains but was openly moving around, he has now applied to the Lahore High Court for protection against the order! Let us examine why. The Americans are looking for witnesses in Pakistan who can corroborate the statements of David Headley and Ajmal Kasab, in the sense that Saeed used to meet the terrorists during their training, used to give them pep talks and goad them on to achieving their objective of massacring innocents in Mumbai. But will there be any such witness who can speak about Saeed’s role in the Mumbai attacks? And will they be ready to depose before a Court against Hafiz Saeed?
Well, the Americans will give it a good try. They have a huge advantage which no other country offers — they have a fantastic Witness Protection Programme. If a witness is available and ready to depose in the court, and is worried about his and his family’s security, the United States government provides the person a totally different identity, and helps him settle down in a suitable place with means to start life afresh. No other country has such a provision which protects the identity of sensitive witnesses, and does not leave them in the lurch once they do their job. And the Americans are going to try their darnedest best to identify and locate one or two witnesses who would be in the know of the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks.
The Americans have a long memory as they have proved time and again, and will wait patiently. If and when they succeed, they will produce the witness/es in their Court, and then seek extradition of Hafiz Saeed. It would be difficult for Pakistan to find excuses to not comply with a United States request for extradition in such a case. In the case of Osama bin Laden, the CIA has taken help of Pakistanis to establish his identity. So it will not be the first time that Pakistanis would be co-operating with the US Government in a sensitive operation. This will highlight the significance of the US Government Notification, and Hafiz Saeed’s turning to the Lahore High Court for protection.
(The writer retired as the first chief of NIA. Earlier, he was the additional director general of police, Jammu and Kashmir. He was also Vigilance Commissioner in Jammu & Kashmir)