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US warns Pakistan of ‘repercussions’ for not re-arresting Hafiz Saeed

The White House statement said Pakistan’s could affect bilateral relations and its global reputation — a significant escalation in Washington’s impatience with Islamabad, a major non-Nato ally.

world Updated: Nov 26, 2017 07:08 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Lashkar-e-Taiba,White House,Pakistan
Hafiz Saeed speaks to supporters after attending Friday Prayers in Lahore on November 24, 2017.(Reuters)

The US on Saturday threatened Pakistan with “repercussions for bilateral relations” if Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, who was released from house arrest on Thursday midnight, was not immediately re-arrested and charged.

“The United States strongly condemns the release of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest in Pakistan and calls for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution,” the White House press secretary’s office said in a statement.

“Saeed’s release, after Pakistan’s failure to prosecute or charge him, sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s commitment to combating international terrorism and belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil.

“If Pakistan does not take action to lawfully detain Saeed and charge him for his crimes, its inaction will have repercussions for bilateral relations and for Pakistan’s global reputation.”

Though the White House did not spell out the “repercussions” it could chose from among past suggestions and calls for either stripping Pakistan of its status as a non-NATO ally that come with certain military or financial benefits or declaring it a a state sponson of terrorism.

The WH statement marked a significant escalation in the US’s impatience with Pakistan — a major non-Nato ally. Islamabad has been on notice from the Donald Trump administration for months for its failure to act decisively against terrorists operating from its soil.

The White House reminded Pakistan of that on Saturday. “As President Donald J Trump’s South Asia policy makes clear, the United States seeks a constructive relationship with Pakistan, but expects decisive action against militant and terrorist groups on Pakistani soil that are a threat to the region.

“The release of Saeed is a step in the wrong direction,” the statement said. “The Pakistani government now has an opportunity to demonstrate its seriousness in confronting all forms of terrorism, without distinction, by arresting and charging Hafiz Saeed for his crimes.”

Bilateral relations with Pakistan have been on a downward spiral for years, and repercussions for its continued inaction on counter-terrorism have take the form of cuts in aid and assistance tied to certain military cooperation and the rejection of its request for the subsidised sale of F-16 fighter jets.

There has been a growing demand in the US for tougher measures against Pakistan to force it to stop using terrorists as a foreign policy tool and drop its reluctance to act against outfits that use its soil to carry out attacks across its eastern and western borders.

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 23:23 IST