India hit out at Pakistan on Monday over its remarks that Hafiz Saeed had no case against him, saying he was the “evil” mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks and it was up to Pakistan to bring the chief of terror outfit Jamat-Ud-Dawa (JuD) to book.
The development cast a fresh pall — after the foreign secretary-level talks failure — on the strained India-Pakistan ties that had rekindled hopes of improvement following Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India during Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.
“Our views on Hafiz Saeed are very clear. To us, he is the evil mastermind of the attacks on Mumbai and one of the accused in an Indian court for the killings on streets of Mumbai. We have repeatedly asked Pakistan that he should be apprehended and taken through normal judicial process,” said ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
Read: Hafiz Saeed our national, free to roam around: Pak envoy
“Alas! He has never been arrested on account of 26/11. Therefore.... he is only free because he is a Pakistani citizen,” he added.
His statements came in reaction to Pakistan high commissioner to India Abdul Basit's remarks that “Hafiz Saeed is a Pakistani national so he is free to roam around.”
Basit also said, “So what is the problem... he is a free citizen so there is no issue as far as Pakistan is concerned. Courts have already exonerated him. There is no case pending against him.”
The exchange of words came close on the heels of India calling off foreign secretary-level talks with its neighbour last month following Basit’s meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders.
There has been a deadlock in dialogues between the two countries after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which armed gunmen unleashed a reign of terror in the city in late November and killed more than 150 people.
Asked about Pakistan’s stand that there was not enough evidence to prove Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said, “99% evidence in this case is in Pakistan. That is because the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. The planning for this dastardly act was done in Pakistan.”
Recently, Saeed, known for his anti-India tirade and designated as a terrorist by the US, has also accused India of indulging in “water-terrorism”.
He had blamed dams constructed in ‘Indian Kashmir’ as the reason responsible for the flood disaster that had claimed over 200 lives in Pakistan.
Watch: Hafiz Saeed is a Pak national, free to roam around: Abdul Basit