Top American counter-terrorism and South Asian experts have expressed outrage over the release of 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who is also a UN designated terrorist, with one of them asking to “rescind” Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO-ally (MNNA). “Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally,” Bruce Riedel, a top US expert on security, South Asia, and counter-terrorism told PTI.
“In a word, the release is an outrage,” Alyssa Ayres, a former State Department official and currently with the Council on Foreign Relations told PTI after Lahore High Court ordered that Saeed be set free. “Before long we will read news reports of Hafiz Saeed leading more rallies with thousands of people,” she said. Saeed is a UN-sanctioned individual terrorist who leads a UN-sanctioned terrorist organisation, Ayres said alleging that Pakistan does not see fit to follow through on its obligations to uphold UN Security Council (UNSC) terrorist designations.
“Pakistan cannot credibly claim to be fighting terrorism while failing its most basic security obligation to UNSC designations,” Ayres said. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, attributed this to the mixed messaging coming from the Trump administration in the last few weeks. US officials were trying to signal to Pakistan that if it takes action against Haqqani network, that could be seen as a positive move and “may thwart” tougher actions against Islamabad, as promised by President Donald Trump in his new South Asia policy, he said.
“In the process they (the US) may have inadvertently made the Pakistani think that the US only wants action against the Haqqani network and not against groups like LeT that are acting against India,” he said. “My fear is that mixed signals will lead to a situation in which Pakistan fails to take decisive action against Afghan-oriented and India oriented terrorist groups,” Haqqani told PTI in response to a question.
The United States, a State Department official said, is aware of media reports regarding Pakistan’s ordered release of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest. In May 2008, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.
Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 (UN Security Council Resolution) in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. LeT and several of its front organisations, leaders, and operatives remain under both State Department and Treasury Department sanctions, the State Department noted.
“The United States reiterates its stance that LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” a State Department Spokesperson told PTI.