Outraged at the release of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, a UN and US-designated terrorist, the Trump Administration today said it “flies in the face” of Pakistan’s claim that the country is not a sanctuary for terrorists. The release of Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack, from house arrest also shows that Pakistan does not want to improve ties with India and that Islamabad is not in favour of talks with New Delhi, according to a senior Trump administration official. “Saeed is a declared terrorist by the UN. He is a specially designated terrorist by our own Treasury Department, by our own government. We have put USD 10 million in reward money for information leading to his prosecution. So, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this this is a terrorist leader,” the official told PTI on condition of anonymity. “So, it does not serve Pakistan’s interest to let him go free, let him give public remarks or be allowed appear before public gatherings. It belies Pakistan’s claim that it is not a sanctuary for terrorists. Frankly, it flies in the face of that claim,” the official added.
It also belies Pakistan’s pledge or commitment and their indication that they are committed to dialogue with India because it certainly damages the environment for being able to return to dialogue, the official said. The official’s remarks gave an insight into the thinking of the Trump administration and its candid conversation with Pakistan in this regard, in particular after the release of Saeed from the house arrest last week. Soon after Saeed’s release, the White House had asked Pakistan to immediately re-arrest and prosecute the Mumbai attack mastermind. The White House had also warned Pakistan that it will have an impact on bilateral relationship.
Saeed continues to roam free after his release.
“It’s in Pakistan’s own interest to take steps to counter these groups, whether it be Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Haqqani network, the Taliban or Jaish-e-Mohammad. There are so many terrorist groups operating from Pakistani territory. It does not serve their own interest in becoming a stable democracy to have these groups operate freely and not held to justice,” the official said. When asked about Saeed filing a petition in the UN to get his name removed from the terrorism black list, the official said such a move would not be helpful for Pakistan. “I did not see that report. But again, that would fly in the face of Pakistan’s claims that it does not serve as a sanctuary for terrorism. This will not be helpful for Pakistan’s global reputation. So, we find it very troubling,” the official said hoping that Islamabad will take steps to reverse these actions.
Responding to questions on the options that the Trump administration have on Pakistan, the official said the US is engaging with the Pakistan on these issues and holding these discussions largely in private. “But we will be looking for very specific actions in coming weeks and months. We hope that we would see some changes in their behavior in the coming weeks and month,” the official added.