Pakistan, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, today “noted with concern” a new US law that allows Americans to sue foreign countries that “aids and abets” acts of terrorism on US soil.
US Congress in a historic vote on September 28 overturned President Barack Obama’s veto to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), informally known as the 9/11 law, which has been primarily drafted with Saudi Arabia in mind as most of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi citizens.
The Obama administration had argued that the law would undermine the principle of sovereign immunity and open up the United States itself to unending lawsuits.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office said: “We have noted with concern the overturning of the US Presidential veto on JASTA, a law passed by US Congress aimed at targeting sovereign states. Many countries across Europe and in the Middle East have also expressed similar concern over JASTA.”
Pakistan has expressed anguish over adoption of a domestic legislation with extra-territorial application, it said.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia historically have enjoyed deep ties based on their common geopolitical interests. There is a large number of expatriate Pakistani workers in the Kingdom.
In 2000, Saudi Arabia provided asylum to then ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. And after Sharif’s 2013 election win, the Saudi government extended a USD 1.5 billion loan to help Pakistan tide over the economic crisis.
Sharif had told the 71st UNGA Session that terrorism is a global phenomenon. He had said efforts should be taken collectively and not unilaterally by the passage of any laws with extra-territorial application, targeted against certain countries, the Foreign Office said.
The law has been within the perspective of 9/11 and most of the lawsuits might target Saudi Arabia as 15 of the 19 September 11, 2001 attackers were Saudi citizens.
The Saudi government denies any links to the plotters and has already slammed the law.
In the US, families of almost 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks have campaigned for the law.
JASTA allows attack survivors and relatives of terrorism victims to pursue cases against foreign governments in US federal court and to demand compensation if such governments are proven to bear some responsibility for attacks on US soil.