Bounty on Saeed validates India’s claim on Lashkar


Photo courtesy: carnegieendowment.org

Is the bounty of ten million dollars against Lashkar-e-Tayiba boss Hafiz Saeed beneficial in nature for India? There are various aspects to this issue. India has on one hand welcomed this move by the United States of America, but the Indian intelligence is of the view that this announcement would not help us in the real sense as Pakistan would do everything in the book to protect the man who is India’s biggest headache.

Stephen Tankel, author of the book, Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba who is also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and assistant professor at American University says that the bounty announced validates India’s repeated assertions that LeT is a dangerous group and that Hafiz Saeed plays a strategic role in guiding it. In this interaction with rediff.com, Tankel also points out that whether the decision to offer a reward should have been made sooner, I think one needs to examine what the US hopes to accomplish.

Whether the decision has come late:

The decision to announce a bounty on Hafiz Saeed has been in the works for a number of months. As to whether the decision to offer a reward should have been made sooner, I think one needs to examine what the United States of America hopes to accomplish. Saeed is not difficult to locate. So the impetus for doing it aside, one possible objective was signalling the seriousness of US concerns to Pakistan and pressuring it to reign in Saeed (and through him LeT). This decision also might have been taken in an attempt to put pressure on the group directly. It’s hardly clear at this stage whether offering the reward will help accomplish these objectives and there are some potentially steep costs involved. So my sense is we’ll have to wait and see to determine whether the announcement should have been made and, if so, whether it should have been made sooner.

Will the death or capture of Hafiz Saeed weaken the Lashkar-e-Tayiba?

The truth is we just don’t know. Saeed has led the organization since it was founded as Markaz-al-Dawa-wal-Irshad in 1986. He’s been surrounded by the same leadership team, more or less, since then. So LeT has never had to deal with a major loss at the leadership level and therefore we really don’t have a sense of its resiliency. It’s tough to find anyone else with the same stature, so removing Saeed could weaken the group and possibly even fragment it. What LeT looks like without Saeed is one of the more difficult scenarios to play out, but one which I’d expect that officials in Pakistan, India, America and LeT devote some time to thinking about.

Should Zaki-ur-Rehman-Lakhvi have been included?

As you know, Lakhvi’s already in jail, so it would be difficult to imagine offering a reward for his capture. Granted he is still quasi-operational from jail and offering a reward for Saeed’s capture took many by surprise given that he is such a public figure.

How does India gain?

Certainly this validates India’s repeated assertions that LeT is a dangerous group and that Hafiz Saeed plays a strategic role in guiding it. Whether this will lead to any beneficial action at the operational level or to closer counter terrorism cooperation between India and Pakistan remains to be seen. Again, though, it’s no surprise that India welcomed this statement given the violence LeT has perpetrated against it or energy the energy New Delhi has put into making the case against both the group and Saeed.

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