US justice may come at a crazy price

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2012, 12:00am


Back in the day when Osama bin Laden was alive, you may have stumbled, if in the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, upon an American hoping to capture the world's most wanted man.

One of these bounty hunters was identified after his arrest by Pakistani authorities in Chitral as Gary Faulkner. He came from the US state of Colorado and his background included construction work, just like Bin Laden's. There were other similarities, according to The New York Times (both were bearded and had kidney problems), except that Faulkner was hoping to claim the US$25 million prize for Bin Laden's head.

The 'Rewards for Justice' (RFJ)programme, which the US State Department insists is a charity set up by private individuals, does not disclose whether the US$25 million offered for Bin Laden was paid out after he was shot dead in Abbottabad - not far from the area where Faulkner was looking for him, in fact.

However, the RFJ does admit that, to date, it has paid US$100 million for information leading to the death or capture of some of those on its most-wanted list. That should give Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba pause for thought, after the RFJ offered US$10 million for the Pakistani's capture and conviction on terrorism charges.

The RFJ does stress that 'we strongly discourage bounty hunters and other non-government individuals from pursuing the capture of terrorists', but Saeed might want to temper the defiance he showed at a news conference he hosted in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, when he denounced the United States and its bounty.

As pointed out by a wild-eyed BBC reporter, the briefing was being held at a venue only 40 minutes' away from the US embassy. Saeed replied to her questions manfully enough, unfazed by the frenzy in her crazed eyes. It may have been that she was trying to inject an urgent quality into her on-camera media persona, but to a casual observer it seemed as if she was trying to suppress a distracting thought - perhaps of a fortune only 40 minutes' away, by her reckoning.

Alex Lo is away and will be back next week


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