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After Pakistan’s ‘no case’ stand, US says prosecute Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US believes that Hafiz Saeed should be prosecuted and they have told Pakistan as much.

world Updated: Jan 19, 2018 17:41 IST
Yashwant Raj
Hafiz Saeed addresses an anti-US and Israel rally in Lahore in December 2017.
Hafiz Saeed addresses an anti-US and Israel rally in Lahore in December 2017.(AFP)

Unimpressed by Pakistan’s newfound reverence for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed ‘sahib’, the US has reiterated its call for Islamabad to arrest and prosecute him to the fullest extent as the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

State department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US considered the Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief – “Hafiz Saeed sahib”, she said mock quoting a description proffered by Pakistan Prime Minister Sahid Khaqan Abbasi this week – “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,” she said.

Nauert further said on Thursday, “We believe that this individual should be prosecuted. The Pakistani government released him from house arrest not that long ago. We believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Saeed has been listed by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee under UNSC Resolution 1267 because of his affiliation with LeT, which is a designated foreign terror organisation, Nauert said.

Abbasi called, to international scorn, Saeed “sahib” during an interview with Geo News, in which he said there was no case against the LeT founder. “There is no case against Hafiz Saeed sahib in Pakistan,” he said about the man designated a terrorist by the US and the UN.

Responding to a question, Nauert said the US has “certainly seen” the reports about Abbasi’s comments on Saeed.

Saeed, for whom the US has offered a $10 million bounty, was released after 10 months under house arrest in November. Soon after, an angry US called for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution, and warned that Islamabad’s failure to comply could have “repercussions”.

Islamabad has not acted on the American demand, and has instead pointed to its independent judiciary in its defence. It has also trotted out the same scripted excuse that India has not provided prosecutable evidence of Saeed’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The US administration, which has put Pakistan on notice over its counter-terrorism efforts, earlier this month announced the suspension of nearly $2billion in security-related aid to Pakistan just days after President Donald Trump vented on Twitter about Islamabad providing only “lies and deceit” in return for $33 billion in assistance since 2002.

Stung and wounded but not willing to acknowledge the setback, Pakistan has sought to brazen it out, seeking comfort and assurance wherever it can. Pakistani media reported the top US general for the region, Joseph Votel, told Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in a recent phone call that the “ongoing turbulence” in relations betwee the non-NATO allies was a “temporary phase”.

Asked by a reporter of Pakistan’s ARY News if Votel’s remarks were in sync with the administration’s, Nauert said she would let the defence department speak for its officials’ remarks and added, “I would say, administration-wide, that we were all on the same page with our relationship.”