Washington: Describing the release of Hafiz Saeed as a step in the wrong direction, the US on Saturday said Pakistan now has an opportunity to “demonstrate its seriousness” in the fight against terrorism by “arresting and charging” the 26/11 mastermind for his crimes.
“The United States strongly condemns the release of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest in Pakistan and calls for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
In a strongly worded statement, the White House said 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,” Sanders said in a statement, reflecting the Trump administration’s outrage at Saeed’s release.
“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,” she 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,” Sanders said.
The White House press secretary said LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens.
JuD chief Saeed himself is a notorious terrorist who is accused of having masterminded the November 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans, she said.
A clear international consensus exists regarding Saeed’s culpability as he was designated by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008, she said.
The Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice, Sanders said.