By Arul Louis
New York–United States President Donald Trump has warned Pakistan that failure to take action against Jammat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed “will have repercussions for bilateral relations”.
The US “strongly condemns” his release from house arrest and “calls for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution,” Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Saturday.
“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” the statement said.
Trump’s latest warning is more specific focusing on Saeed’s release on Thursday in the face of Pakistan’s defiance of his admonishment in August that Pakistan had “much to lose” by harbouring terrorists.
“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,” Sanders’s statement said.
“As President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy makes clear, the US 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,” she said. “The release of Saeed is a step in the wrong direction.”
The statement pointed out that that the US has designated the LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation “responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens.”
It added, “Saeed himself is a notorious terrorist who stands accused of having masterminded the November 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six American citizens.”
On Friday, the State Department had condemned the release of Saeed, who carries a $10 million bounty from the US, and demanded his re-arrest.
Saeed was let go by Pakistani authorities in Lahore after a court refused to extend the detention that ended Thursday and ordered him released from house arrest.
When Donald Trump, who had taken a strong stand against terrorism during his campaign, assumed the US presidency in January, Islamabad put Saeed under house arrest. Pakistan has failed so far to prosecute him on terrorism charges.
In 2008, the US Treasury Department declared Saeed a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and put sanctions on him. (IANS)