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When US pulls out of Kabul, Delhi will have trouble in Kashmir: Hafiz Saeed

Publication: India Today
Date: April 23, 2012

He started his career as a teacher of Islamic studies at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore. But Hafiz Saeed's name made headlines globally after the 2001 attack on Parliament in Delhi.

In November 2008, his name surfaced again. India blamed jihadi groups, mainly Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) allegedly run by Saeed, for the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. The 61-year-old vehemently denies both allegations. It doesn't change the fact that the $10 million bounty (Rs.50 crore) on his head, announced on April 2, has made him one of the most wanted men in US and India. Yet he is a free man in Pakistan. Its Supreme Court cleared him of involvement in the Mumbai attack in May 2010 and he often addresses public gatherings as well as press conferences. One of the most powerful men of Pakistan, he is the supreme leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), formerly known as LeT. Relaxed and confident, Saeed talks to India Today Correspondent Qaswar Abbas in Lahore.

Q. What do you think of the US price on your head?

A. It was a big surprise for me. Normally, bounty is placed on individuals who are hiding somewhere. I am not hiding in any cave. I think the US is frustrated because with the help of Defence of Pakistan Council, which is a combination of 40 religious and political parties, I am staging countrywide protests against the resumption of nato supplies and drone strikes. Either the US has very little knowledge or is basing its decisions on wrong information being provided by India, or indeed, they are just frustrated.

As a matter of fact, I am easily accessible. US officials can come to meet me any time; however, they should bring the bounty with them as well which our organisation, JuD, can use to carry out relief operations across the country.

Q. Don't you think the Americans can get you like they got Osama bin Laden?

A. The Americans should know it will not be possible for them to get me like they got Osama bin Laden. I am not afraid of them.

Q. What do you hope to achieve with the rallies against the US?

A. A cut in nato supplies will compel the US-led nato forces to flee from Afghanistan soon. And this will ultimately help the Mujahideen to revert their attention to India-held Kashmir. Let me tell you, a full-scale armed jihad will begin soon in Kashmir after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The freedom movement in Kashmir will also gain momentum following the withdrawal of nato troops from Afghanistan. I'm sure India will face a tough time as the Mujahideen revert their attention to Kashmir.

Q. Who are your friends? Who is standing by you during these testing times?

A. I have the full support of Defence of Pakistan Council. They have condemned the US move of placing a bounty on my head. They have also held countrywide demonstrations against the US bounty.

Q. Law enforcement agencies in Pakistan have claimed that they have arrested operators of JuDin connection with the Mumbai attack. Can you confirm it?

A. Yes, there are a few workers of JuD currently languishing in jail. Their trial is under way and I am sure the court will set them free as soon as the government sees that there is no proof against them. Just as the Supreme Court of Pakistan set me free in connection with the Mumbai case due to lack of evidence, the court will set the workers of JuD free soon, Inshallah.
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