ISLAMABAD - A US bounty on the head of a Pakistani leader suspected in masterminding attacks on India's financial capital has left Pakistan boiling, sending the two close allies into a new diplomatic crisis.
"I don't think that this is a wise decision," Abdul Khalique Ali, a Karachi-based political analyst, told OnIslam.net.
"The timing and the real motive, which is unknown to us, behind this step are absolutely ununderstandable.
The US administration of President Barack Obama has posted a $10 million reward for the arrest of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest Islamic organizations in South Asia, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h (JeD) and his aide over involvement in the attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
"This is a serious blow to the backdoor diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring the two key NATO supply routes," Ali said.
Washington and Islamabad have been engaged in hectic behind-the-door diplomatic efforts to find a way for reopening two supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The two routes, the northeastern torkhum border, and southwestern Chaman crossing, had been closed down in November 2011 following a NATO airstrike that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers.
The air strike brought the already strained ties frayed by the decade-long war on terror, to a virtual breakdown.
"The parliament is already under pressure by religious and political parties, which are vehemently opposing the proposed reopening of the supply routes at any cost," Ali said.
"And this unwise and uncalled bounty-offer has underpinned their (opponents of reopening of routes) stand."
Analysts believe that the US bounty aims to pile up pressures on Pakistan to reopen supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
"The US has played this (Hafiz Saeed) card just to mount pressure on Pakistan for reopening of the supply routes," Ansar Abbasi, an Islamabad-based political and security analyst, told OnIslam.net.
He opines that the US wants to achieve two purposes by offering head-money for Saeed.
"On the one hand, it has increased pressure on the Pakistani government, particularly the ISI, which has stopped intelligence sharing with the US, while on the other hand it has appeased India, which has continuously blaming Pakistani intelligence agencies for orchestrating the Mumbai attacks."
Analysts say that Washington has no enough proofs to force Pakistan to arrest Saeed.
Abbasi cited a memo leaked by WikiLeaks from former US envoy to Pakistan, N.W Paterson to the State Department in which he admitted that India had provided insufficient proofs against Saeed for his involvement in Mumbai attacks.
He also quoted the US deputy chief of mission in New Delhi, who had written to the State Department that "Indian authorities insist that Pakistan was behind the Mumbai attacks, however they (Indian authorities) are worried about the US demand for provision of concrete evidences with respect to involvement of Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) in the terrorist attacks.'
Pakistan's Foreign Office also said that the US allegations against Saeed and his aide are not enough to arrest them.
"The US administration has to provide concrete and undeniable evidences against the tow JeD leaders," spokesman Abdul Basit told a press conference.
"Pakistani government has no proof whatsoever against these two leaders under which action could be taken against them.
"Pakistan's judiciary is fully independent, and if the US administration thinks it has concrete evidences against the two, it should hand over the proofs to us. Until unless, we have cogent proofs , we cannot take any action against him."
"But we want to make it clear that Pakistan will not bow to any pressure in this regard. The US must respect our legal system."
Saeed himself appears to be undaunted by the US reward offer.
"Life and death are in the hands of Allah. I have no worries at all because I am not guilty," he told OnIslam.net.
Saeed, who earned international recognition for his group's large-scale relief work during a 2005 earthquake in Aazd Kashmir and massive floods in Pakistan in 2010, and 2011, said allegations against him have never been proved true.
"I have faced and I am ready to face charges against me in any court of law, not only in Pakistan, but any US court as well," he said, referring to the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court's judgments clearing him and his other aides of charges leveled by India over their involvement in Mumbai attacks.
"I am available here any time. If the US authorities want to contact me, I am available.
"But still, I am ready to face any court of law," he said.
Saeed feels that America is using pressure tactics to suppress his voice against reopening of NATO supply routes.
"Our campaign against reopening of supply routes will continue Inshaullah, and no pressure tactic can bar me from doing that."
Throwing weight in favor of Saeed, Pakistan's political and religious parties have warned that they would take to streets if the government tries to arrest or hand him over to the US.
Pakistan Defense Council (PDC), of which Saeed is a key leader, has already announced a nationwide protest campaign against US move.