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U.S. Offers $10 Million for Pakistani Terrorist Living in Plain Sight

Hafiz Saeed is a hero to some Pakistanis. To almost everyone else, especially Indians and Americans, he is reviled as the face of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group responsible for many atrocities, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people. Naturally the Indians consider him Public Enemy #1, and he is high on the list of America’s most wanted terrorists. Yet Saeed and his aides live openly in Pakistan, traveling throughout the country at will. He is a leader of the right-wing political group known as the Defense of Pakistan Council—a coalition of former army generals, “banned” jihadist groups, and religious parties—and often speaks at rallies. He makes a lot of public appearances for a man with a sizable bounty on his capture: Washington has offered to pay $10 million for information that helps bring Saeed into custody.

Under pressure, Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba years ago. Yet many still see connections between Saeed and his associates and current and former leaders of the ISI and Pakistani Army. The United States and India suspect that the Mumbai attacks, for example, were carried out with planning and operational assistance from current and former members of Pakistan’s security establishment. Saeed’s freedom, then, is no accident.

But Saeed enjoys public support as well. Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity and a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, spearheaded humanitarian assistance after the 2005 earthquake and the massive flooding in 2010. Jamaat-ud-Dawa also provides medical and security assistance at Saeed’s rallies. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it is popular because it addresses citizens’ needs better than does the state.

India and the United States view Saeed, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and Lashkar-e-Taiba as dangerous terrorists; they are beloved by many Pakistanis; and Pakistan’s military leaders find them useful as a tool against both Washington and the civilian government in Islamabad.

It’s a messy situation, brought into all the more stark contrast by the fact of the  $10 million bounty on Saeed—a man who recently spoke at a public rally in Rawalpindi alongside Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI.

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