Al Jazeera exclusive with Hafiz Saeed

Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader says he is innocent and ready to defend himself from US accusations that he supports terrorism.

Hafiz Saeed has spoken exclusively to Al Jazeera after the US announced a $10m reward for his arrest.

The Pakistani man accused by the US and India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks says he is innocent and says he is ready to defend himself in an international court.

Saeed heads the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, which is the charitable arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the US and India say are both terrorist organisations. Pakistan cleared Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa of links to terrorism in 2009.

Al Jazeera: What is your reaction to the bounty?

Hafiz Saeed: We’re not hiding in caves for rewards to be set on finding us. We are addressing hundreds of thousands of people daily in Pakistan. I think the US is frustrated because we are taking out countrywide protests against the resumption of NATO supplies and drone strikes.

We have made a political alliance and millions of people are with us in our protests. I believe either the US has very little knowledge and is basing its decisions on  the wrong information being provided by India or it is just frustrated. And it is creating anti-American sentiment by itself.

Al Jazeera: Does India has proof against you and recordings that tie you to Ajmal Kassab?

Hafiz Saeed: I have never seen or heard of Ajmal Kassab. I heard about him through the media after the Mumbai attacks. We have no links with him and it has been proven in the courts. All the proof that was provided by India was taken up by courts in Pakistan. A Lahore high court’s full bench exonerated me and then the supreme court gave a judgment in my favour.

There is nothing that links me or Jamaat-ud-Dawa to anything. If India has any new evidence, it should take it to the courts so we can challenge it. Decisions are made in the courts not through media propaganda. You cannot hold me responsible through a media trial. It is regrettable that India is hiding things on its end and is involved in pointless blame game.

Al Jazeera: If they have anything, why do they keep blaming you?

Hafiz Saeed: When we were blamed for attacking the Indian parliament, we challenged that accusation. Me and my party have no links with the attacks on the Indian parliament. I am telling you today that we will accept any decision [by courts] if a link is established between us and the attacks. There are international courts that India should approach and we are ready to face them.

Al Jazeera: So you agree to accept any decision from a court such as the International Court of Justice?

Hafiz Saeed: Absolutely, we will defend ourselves. We have a solid defence and all India has is media propaganda.

Al Jazeera: How do you respond to the $10m bounty on evidence that leads to your arrest?

Hafiz Saeed: The US is continuing its drone strikes, which are turning Pakistan into a haven for terrorism and creating turmoil in the country. The same goes about the supplies to forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan [intended] to keep them in the region for a longer period.

The solution is US withdrawal from the region. Their presence is destabilising the region and causing economic downturn. We are creating a grassroots movement [to tell the US] to leave this region and withdraw its troops. The resumption of NATO supply routes is not in [Pakistan’s] national interest. The drone attacks must end immediately.

We are mobilising people and it is our right to raise our voice. The US says that it believes in democracy so why can’t they accept our democratic rights? They have double standards and should deal with things based on justice.

Al Jazeera: Will there be violence if Pakistan re-opens NATO supply routes?

Hafiz Saeed: We will continue our movement and if the decision is made we will try our best to stop [the resumption of NATO supplies].

Source: Al Jazeera