Pakistan on Thursday skirted the issue of defending JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in a US lawsuit filed by relatives of two American Jews killed in the Mumbai attacks, saying it would only protect the interests of ISI officials who had been named in the case.
Pakistan's decision to defend ISI officials in the lawsuit in a Brooklyn court does not apply to "non-officials," foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a weekly briefing.
Basit was responding to a question on Saeed's demand that the government should appoint a counsel to defend him in the US court as he is a Pakistani national and no terror charges had been proved against him.
"Pakistan will defend its officials. So, here we are talking about officials. As far as defending non-officials is concerned, I would not be in a position to answer your question," Basit said.
"I understand that (Saeed) has perhaps referred the matter to some court. I would not know the details of that. But here we are talking about officials," he said.
Basit said he did not know whether the US lawsuit had figured in discussions yesterday between visiting vice president Joe Biden and senior Pakistani leaders.
Saeed, the founder of the banned Lashker-e-Taiba, yesterday filed a petition in the Lahore High Court asking it to direct the federal government to defend him in the US lawsuit.
He noted in his petition that the federal government has announced it will defend ISI officials in the US lawsuit and said he had the "Constitutional right" to seek similar legal aid.
The court in Brooklyn has summoned current ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his predecessor Nadeem Taj and Lashker-e-Taiba leaders, including Saeed, to appear before it in connection with the suit filed by relatives of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, who were among the 166 people killed during the Mumbai attacks.