- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Unlike Osama bin Laden, who kept a low profile in his hideout in Pakistan, the founder of a militant group that has ties to al Qaeda and American blood on its hands routinely speaks before tens of thousands of Pakistanis and incites hatred against the United States.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in a move that likely will further strain its tense relationship with Pakistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group founded by Mr. Saeed, carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans. U.S. and Indian officials say Mr. Saeed helped plan those attacks.

The State Department designated Lashkar-e-Taiba a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001, and the United Nations slapped sanctions on Mr. Saeed in 2008.

Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based political analyst, questioned the timing of the State Department’s announcement and said it would add more stress to the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

“Unlike Mullah Omar, who is an Afghan national, … Hafiz Saeed is a Pakistani national,” Ms. Siddiqa said in a phone interview. “It is a different ballgame.”

Mullah Mohammed Omar is the leader of the Afghan Taliban, which attacks U.S. forces in Afghanistan from safe havens in the Pakistan border area.

The bounty on Mr. Saeed had been in the works for “quite a number of months,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

“These things are somewhat complicated to work through all of the details. So the announcements were only able to be posted when the process was complete,” she added.

Relations plummet

The U.S.-Pakistani relationship hit bottom after the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January 2011 on charges of killing two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore; the death of al Qaeda leader bin Laden in a U.S. commando raid in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad in May; and a NATO attack on Pakistani border posts in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides is expected to arrive Wednesday for meetings in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Mr. Saeed has whipped up opposition to strikes by unmanned U.S. drones on terrorist suspects in Pakistan. A Pakistani parliamentary committee also has demanded that the drone strikes be stopped, but the Obama administration considers the drones effective tools in the war against terrorists.

Ms. Siddiqa said the big question now is what the Obama administration will do next.

“Is there going to be a repeat of May 2?” she said, referring to the U.S. commando raid on bin Laden’s hideout. “Or will Pakistan face sanctions if Saeed makes more public appearances?”

Story Continues →