KOLKATA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday confirmed that Washington has announced a bounty for Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, as she said that the US believed the chief of al Qaeda was in Pakistan and vowed to keep up pressure on Islamabad.
Clinton told an audience here that she was “well aware” that the Pakistani government had not yet taken steps to help secure Saeed’s conviction.
“We’re going to be pushing that. So it’s a way of raising the visibility and pointing out to those who are associated with him that there is a cost for that,” Clinton said of the reward offer.
Three of the top five most-wanted militants by the United States are believed to be in Pakistan, including the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar.
But Clinton, addressing a public forum in Kolkata, said she also appreciated sacrifices by Pakistan, saying that it was the main victim of violence by extremists.
Saeed has openly defied the US announcement by holding press conferences in Pakistan. The United States has said it is not offering the reward for his capture but for information to prosecute him.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter claimed on April 29 that the US government never made such an offer. Munter argued that the Pakistani media had misreported the issue.
Meanwhile, Clinton said “We want to disable al Qaeda and we have made a lot of progress in doing that.”
“There are several significant leaders still on the run. Zawahiri, who inherited the leadership from Bin Laden is somewhere, we believe, in Pakistan,” she said.
Reacting to Clinton’s statement that Zawahiri was in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar urged the US to share information in this regard.
“We have no information about the presence of al Qaeda leader (Ayman al-Zawahiri) in Pakistan. If anybody has any information in this regard, they should share it with us so that we can look into the matter accordingly,” Khar said while talking to reporters after briefing the members of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) at the Parliament House.
Khar, however, expressed optimism that the US would respect parliament’s recommendations on reengagement with the US which had been directly linked to halting drone strikes inside Pakistan.
She said talks between both countries in light of the terms of engagement set by parliament were still ongoing and could take some time to settle.
The minister said there was no halt in talks and any impression of failure of dialogue was uncalled for.
She reiterated the government’s stance that US drone attacks were counter-productive and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. “The US has been informed of Pakistan’s concerns on drone strikes,” she added.