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US wants Pakistan to prosecute terrorists, not just detain them

Following international outrage triggered by the Pulwama terrorist attack by Pakistan-based JeM last February, the Imran Khan government has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism measures such as detaining terrorists and seizing assets, as they have done countless times before.

world Updated: Jun 13, 2019 22:18 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
United States,counter-terrorism,Pakistan
The United States has been pressing Pakistan to prosecute terrorist leaders such as LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and JeM’s Masood Azhar, and it has responded with mounting frustration and irritation to half-measures Islamabad has taken against these operatives, allowing them to operate freely, to raise funds and train cadres.(AP PHOTO)

The United States said on Thursday that while recent counter-terrorism measures taken by Pakistan are “important”, they are “still reversible” and it needs to both “sustain” and “expand” them by “prosecuting terrorist leaders”.

“The reality is that terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (another spelling for Lashkar-e-Toiba, LeT) and Jaish-e- Muhammad (Jaish-e-Mohammad, JeM) will continue to pose a grave risk to international peace as long as they are able to operate freely in Pakistan,” Alice Wells, head of the state department’s South and Central Asia bureau, said in her prepared remarks for a congressional hearing.

“Sustained progress on these two issues – reconciliation (in the context of Afghanistan) and counter-terrorism (in both Afghanistan and India) – will lie at the heart of a renewed bilateral relationship,” she added.

Following international outrage triggered by the Pulwama terrorist attack by Pakistan-based JeM last February, the Imran Khan government has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism measures such as detaining terrorists and seizing assets, as they have done countless times before.

But the United States has been pressing Pakistan to prosecute terrorists leaders such as LeT founder Hafiz Saeed (an UN and US designated terrorist who carries a reward of $10 million for his arrest and prosecution) and JeM’s Masood Azhar, and it has responded with mounting frustration and irritation to half-measures Islamabad has taken against these operatives historically, allowing them to operate freely, to raise funds and train cadres.

President Donald Trump ordered suspension of all security related aid to Pakistan to force it to take more sustainable and irreversible action, but US officials have continued to express frustration at the lack of progress. And they have pointed to both Saeed and Azhar to make their case.

Wells spoke of Azhar’s designation by the UN’s 1267 sanctions committee earlier, which was engineered by the United States working with the United Kingdom and France, in the face of stiff resistance, once again, by China working on behalf of its close ally Pakistan.

Calling it an “achievement 10 years in the making”, Wells said the listing sent “an important message that the international community would not tolerate terrorism”.

Outlining the Trump administration’s approach to Pakistan, Wells said the strategy was to obtain Pakistan’s support for the Afghanistan peace process and to follow through on pledges “to take sustained and irreversible action against all militant groups operating from within its territory”.

First Published: Jun 13, 2019 22:18 IST