Pakistan responds back hard to US over issue of Hafiz Saeed

Pakistan responds back hard to US over issue of Hafiz Saeed

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and United States are heading towards yet another low after the recent allegations of the US over the issue of the JuD Chief Hafiz Saeed .

United States speaking the language of its strategic ally India has been pressurising Pakistan to act against the JuD Chief Hafiz Saeed over his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks inside India.

Pakistan has told the United States that it cannot act against Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed without evidence amid calls from Washington to arrest and try India’s most wanted cleric, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry, who remain in contact with the US, said Islamabad had conveyed to Washington that it was taking action against all the terrorists and terror sponsors without discrimination.

An official said: “Hafiz Saeed is a free man because there is no evidence against him. If India or the US have any evidence they must share it with Pakistan.”

Another official said: “We have told them clearly that the law does not allow keeping him behind bars for no reason and no charge. Pakistan cannot act without evidence.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said that Saeed was freed because there were no charges against him. The prime minister said India or the US could charge him internationally, if there was substance to the accusations against him.

This week, the United States said the JuD chief should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as Washington regarded him as a terrorist. Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the US Department of State said that the US had made its points and concerns clear to the Pakistani government in that regard.

Nauert rejected PM Abbasi's stance on the matter, saying: 'We regard him as a terrorist, a part of a foreign terrorist organisation. He was the mastermind, we believe, of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed many people, including Americans as well. We have made our points and our concerns to the Pakistani government very clear. We believe that this individual should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.'

The State Department spokesperson stressed that Saeed's name is on the United Nation's list of designated terrorists, adding: 'He is listed by the UN Security Council 1267, the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee for targeted sanctions due to his affiliation with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is a designated foreign terror organisation.'

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs also echoed US sentiments, saying: “If somebody is designated global terrorist, it’s done based on lot of evidence available in public domain. You can close your eyes, pretend nothing happened but they (Pakistan) have to realise what’s in front of them and take action against such people,' said Raveesh Kumar, the ministry's spokesman.

This month, Pakistani government banned companies and individuals from making donations to the JuD, Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, and other organisations on the UNSC sanctions list. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) said all companies had been prohibited from “donating cash to the entities and individuals listed under the United Nations Security Council sanctions committee’s consolidated list.” The UNSC sanctions list includes the names of Al-Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan , Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the JuD, the FIF, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other organisations and individuals. The development came as the government decided to take action against organisations and individuals linked to terrorism at a recent high-level meeting on national security.

Hafiz Saeed , one the most wanted men in India, has been blamed for masterminding attacks in held Kashmir and India including the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The JuD chief denies the allegations. The White House has already warned that there would be repercussions unless Islamabad takes action to detain and charge Saeed.

Saeed was released last year after the Lahore High Court rejected the government’s request seeking a further extension in his house arrest. The review board of the court said that there was not sufficient evidence to keep the JuD chief under house arrest. The JuD chief and four of his aides were detained in January 2017 after the government told a court they presented a threat to peace and security. The move was largely attributed to the US pressure.

In May 2008, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a specially designated global terrorist. Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in which six American citizens were killed.

This week, Pakistan and the US returned to the talks’ table after tension rose to an unprecedented level, threatening to break the alliance altogether.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Alice Wells flew to Islamabad to hold talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in a damage-control bid.

In the first formal talks after US President Donald Trump’s hostile tweet last month, Wells termed Pakistan’s support critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

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