[The reward was welcomed by Ms. Sherman’s Indian hosts, who have long pressed Pakistan to imprison or extradite Mr. Saeed. A spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said it was a “strong signal” to Lashkar-e-Taiba and evidence of growing security cooperation between the United States and India. The Mumbai attacks killed 166 people, including six Americans.]
By Declan Walsh
Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
Hafiz Saeed has been accused of orchestrating attacksin Mumbai that killed 166 people, including six Americans
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — - The United States has announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani militant leader accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and who in recent months has emerged at the vanguard of a prominent anti-American political movement.
Wendy Sherman, the United States under secretary of state for political affairs, announced the reward for Mr. Saeed, described as the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, during a visit to India on Monday. She also announced $2 million for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, Mr. Saeed’s brother-in-law.
The reward was welcomed by Ms. Sherman’s Indian hosts, who have long pressed Pakistan to imprison or extradite Mr. Saeed. A spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said it was a “strong signal” to Lashkar-e-Taiba and evidence of growing security cooperation between the United States and India. The Mumbai attacks killed 166 people, including six Americans.
But the reward is likely to further strain relations with Pakistan, which are currently being renegotiated following a border clash last November in which American warplanes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. And it met with a contemptuous reception in Lahore, the eastern Pakistani city where Mr. Saeed lives openly, running his operations from a sprawling compound on the edge of the city.
A senior aide described the American reward as an “April fool’s joke” and ridiculed the notion that Mr. Saeed was a hunted man. “Hafiz Saeed and his aides are not fugitives. They are not living a secret life. They are living in Pakistan as free members of society,” said Hafiz Muhammad Masood, the central information secretary with Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a religious charity that serves as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Rewards for Justice program, which is administered by the State Department, has paid out $100 million to 70 informants who helped tracked down criminals since 1984. But the case of Mr. Saeed, a 61-year-old former engineering professor, is unusual because his whereabouts are not a mystery.
Unlike other figures at the top of the list, such as the Al Qaeda leader Ayman al- Zawahiri, who carries a $25 million reward, or the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, who is worth $10 million, Mr. Saeed is not thought to be on the run in the lawless border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Instead, the heavy-set, bearded jihadist lives in open sight in the eastern city of Lahore where, in recent years, he has given numerous interviews, some on prime-time television, and addressed large crowds of supporters.
In recent months he has flitted between cities across the country to attend rallies organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, a right-wing lobby group that includes banned jihadist groups, religious parties and conservative politicians. The group’s aim is to influence politicians who are currently debating the future of Pakistan’s relationship with Washington in Parliament, and to prevent the reopening of NATO supply lines that have been closed since November.
The Defense of Pakistan Council rallies have alarmed western diplomats and many Pakistanis, with their anti-American rhetoric and the presence of heavily armed jihadi fighters. The ease with which the group operates stoked media suspicions that it enjoys tacit support from the military, possibly as a means of pressuring Washington.
“Pakistan is facing very severe threat from both sides — India is one side, American and NATO forces are on the other and the agenda of both is Pakistan,” Mr. Saeed told the Financial Times at a rally in Rawalpindi last January. “We want to send a message to them that the defense of Pakistan is uppermost in our minds.”
In many ways, Mr. Saeed embodies Pakistan’s struggle to rein in homegrown Islamist militants. The former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 but it quickly reemerged under the guise of its charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Attempts to prosecute Mr. Saeed for his alleged role in various attacks have failed, as have efforts to restrict his movements through house arrest. He has been subject to United Nations sanctions since 2008.
But the greatest problem lies in his ambiguous relationship with the military’s powerful intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The ISI nurtured Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1990s to fight Indian soldiers in Indian-occupied Kashmir and it quickly gained a reputation as a disciplined and effective militant unit. Unlike the Taliban, which follows the Deobandi school of Islam, Lashkar-e-Taiba adheres to the more austere Ahle Hadith creed, which is derived from the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia.
Over the past decade the militant group has expanded its horizons to include attacks on Indian civilian targets, including the Parliament and a train station in Mumbai, as well as western citizens and Jewish clerics. In Afghanistan, its militants have emerged as a factor in the war in the east of the country.
ISI officials insist they effectively lost control of the group after cutting their ties in 2002. But they have also failed to stop its fundraising and recruitment activities through Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which operates from the Muridke compound outside Lahore and has run substantial charity operations across Pakistan, particularly after an earthquake in 2005 and widespread floods in 2010.
In recent months, Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists have provided security and medical cover at Defence of Pakistan Council rallies. Meanwhile, seated alongside Mr. Saeed on the platform has been Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief and prominent jihadist ideologue.
Reporting was contributed by Waqar Gilani in Lahore, Pakistan, and Jim Yardley in New Delhi.
[Nine teams, down from 10 last season, will play a total of 76 Twenty20 matches — sixteen apiece, on a home-and-away schedule, to decide which four will proceed to the four-match playoff stage. In the process a lot of players will become considerably wealthier — notably the Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who secured a $2 million contract from Chennai in the rotisserie-style player auction on Feb. 4.]
By Huw Richards
Nor will anybody be too surprised if the final May 27 is a repeat of the opener Wednesday, when the Chennai Super Kings begin their pursuit of a third consecutive I.P.L. title at home against the Mumbai Indians, the titleholders of the Champions League — the global competition among Twenty20 teams.
Nine teams, down from 10 last season, will play a total of 76 Twenty20 matches — sixteen apiece, on a home-and-away schedule, to decide which four will proceed to the four-match playoff stage. In the process a lot of players will become considerably wealthier — notably the Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who secured a $2 million contract from Chennai in the rotisserie-style player auction on Feb. 4.
By turning many of the world’s leading cricketers into millionaires, the I.P.L. has also transformed the landscape of the game globally. At the same time, though, it faces business challenges of its own.
Since last season, India’s national team has fallen from its position atop the world rankings for test cricket. And television ratings for the I.P.L. in 2011 were lower than those of the previous season.
“I.P.L. is a different tournament. Twenty20 is fun for fans, and India’s performance will not have an impact on the tournament” was the confident prediction last week by Rajeev Shukla, a vice president with the Board of Control for Cricket in India who took over as I.P.L. chairman last year. He attributed the lower television ratings to the bad timing, with the I.P.L. tournament taking place immediately after India won the Cricket World Cup in the 50-over format.
“Last year there was cricket fatigue,” Shukla said.
Still, a few incidents over the past few months have raised questions about the commercial strength of the I.P.L.
One franchise, Kochi Tuskers, was expelled from the competition after failing to pay a bank guarantee last September. Another club, the Pune Warriors, seemed likely to follow in February when its owner, Sahara, an Indian conglomerate that also sponsors the Indian national team, had a temporary falling-out with the cricket board.
But there are signs the tournament still is growing. One proposed deal would let another conglomerate, the Jain Group, take control of the Rajasthan Royals in a move that values the franchise at $226.5 million, more than three times the $67 million paid by the current owners when they set up the club only five years ago.
With the tournament’s major sponsorship deals, notably with title sponsor DLF, up for renewal after this season, the I.P.L. needs to make a splash. It is certainly starting confidently enough, with an opening ceremony in Chennai on Tuesday featuring the singer Katy Perry and a wealth of Bollywood film royalty, notably the legendary star Amitabh Bachchan, who will take the oaths of the nine different team captains.
The real test, though, will be the quality, and above all the entertainment value, of the cricket itself. Shukla made it clear that the organizers think that means high scores, saying that groundskeepers had been instructed to ensure conditions in which scores of 160 or more from a 20-over innings are the norm.
It was no surprise, then, that the Bangalore Challengers worked hard during the off-season to secure the return of Chris Gayle. The flamboyant West Indian was the highest scorer in the 2011 tournament despite missing the first few weeks of the season. His string of ferocious assaults transformed his team from also-rans into the eventual runners-up, with the team losing the final against Chennai.
“The expectation is high, based on what happened last year,” Gayle said last week. “But last year is history and we don’t know what the future holds.
“I’m not a person to predict and say, yes, I’m going to better 600 odd runs. We’ll have to wait and see. The start is going to be crucial.”
Could the South African Richard Levi be the Gayle for this year? Levi attracted no interest at the auction, but he then played the fastest ever-innings of 100 or more in a Twenty20 international, hitting no fewer than 13 sixes against New Zealand, and was snapped up by Mumbai.
“You are not going to score 100 from 40 balls every time. The trick is to keep everything as simple as possible and play to your strengths,” said Levi, well aware that most eyes at Mumbai matches will be on his opening partner, Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian legend. “The crowd won’t be cheering for me, they’ll be cheering for their Little Master, but I think it is going to be amazing.”
Other players likely to generate serious attention include Pune’s hugely gifted but troubled New Zealander, Jesse Ryder, who will be accompanied by his personal clinical psychologist as he deals with alcohol and other issues; the Australia captain Michael Clarke, who will be paid a reported $1 million by Pune for six matches; and the veteran Australian Adam Gilchrist, who will be the tournament’s busiest man as captain, coach, opening batsman and wicket keeper for Kings XI Punjab.
Chennai will be tough to stop, so where is the challenge to come from? Mumbai will threaten again, but if there is to be a new name on the trophy come May 27, it may just be that of the Kolkata Knight Riders, who have astutely added to the nucleus of the squad that finished fourth in 2011 and made its first playoff appearance. Among those recruits is the West Indian Rudi Webster — not to play, since he is 72, but as the first mental skills coach for an I.P.L franchise. That move might just be a masterstroke in a game that, despite its flashy trappings, demands thinking cricketers above all else.