Nation special feature
The release of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed in Lahore has irked the United States and India and termed this action highly detrimental to peace and stability in the region. The White House has called release of Hafiz Saeed a “step in the wrong direction” and said a refusal to re-arrest him would damage bilateral ties and Pakistan’s reputation around the world.
The move outraged both US and Indian authorities. India’s foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar reacted saying; “India is outraged that a self-confessed and a UN proscribed terrorist is allowed to walk free and continue with his agenda.”
In a statement on Saturday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the US “strongly condemns” the release of Hafiz Saeed from house arrest. She urged his “immediate re-arrest and prosecution”. “Saeed’s release, after Pakistan’s failure to prosecute or charge him, sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s commitment to combatting international terrorism and belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil,” she said adding; “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.” On Friday, Washington had urged Pakistan to re-arrest Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed and charge him with the crimes he was accused of committing. Hafiz Saeed was released before dawn on Friday after a three-judge panel in Lahore High Court ended his detention in Lahore. Saeed’s spokesman Yahya Mujahid called it a “victory of truth.”
The United States urged Pakistan to re-arrest Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed and charge him with the crimes he is accused of committing. Hafiz Saeed, who has been designated a terrorist by the US Justice Department, was released early on Friday after a court on Wednesday rejected the government’s plea for a 60-day extension in his house arrest.
“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” said the State Department in a statement issued hours after Mr Saeed’s release. It is rare for the US government to issue a statement during the Thanksgiving holidays but the State Department felt that the issue was urgent enough to ignore this tradition.
“The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan,” the department said, adding 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”. The US Treasury Department branded the LeT chief a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2008 and in December 2008 the United Nations also designated him a “terrorist individual”. Both designations blamed him for the November 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people, including six American citizens, were killed. The State Department reminded Pakistan that LeT and several of its front organisations, leaders and operatives remained under State Department and Treasury Department sanctions. Since 2012, the United States has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Mr Saeed to justice.
In an earlier statement to the Indian media, Bruce Riedel, who headed the team that formulated the Obama administration’s Afghan policy, urged Washington to take strong action against Pakistan for releasing Mr Saeed. “Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally,” he said.
A day earlier, the Lahore High Court had refused to extend detention orders against Saeed, whose current house arrest was going to expire on Nov 24 (Friday). The review board under the chair of Justice Abdul Sami Khan passed these orders after a senior finance ministry official failed to convince the board that the release of Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country.
The JuD chief had been placed under house arrest on January 31 for 90 days. Subsequently, his house arrest had been extended several times.
Following the LHC’s decision to cut his detention short, Saeed had told media that the decision was tantamount to “the victory of truth” and called it “a serious blow” to India’s demands.
Addressing a sermon at Lahore’s Jamia Masjid Al Qadsia a day after walking free, Saeed said he was “fighting for the freedom of Pakistan and Kashmir.” Only a few hours after coming out from house arrest, Hafiz Saeed accused India of funding and fuelling terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. He said evidence was available to substantiate this. The Jamaatud Dawa chief was delivering the Friday sermon at Masjid-i-Qadsia. “Peace cannot be restored and maintained in Pakistan until notorious elements such as Kulbhushan [Jadhav] are present in the country,” he said.
Terming Pakistan a gift from Allah, Mr Saeed said: “Today’s biggest problem is that Pakistani rulers are obeying the West like slaves. We have to free Pakistan. Freedom of Pakistan in real terms can ensure Kashmir’s independence.” He claimed that he was fighting the case for a free Pakistan and a free Kashmir. There was nothing personal about the affair. “The day when the rulers will start taking their own decisions, foreign pressure will evaporate,” he said.
Hafiz Saeed urged the government to re-evaluate its priorities and reformulate its policies about India. Pakistan should open a dialogue with India only after it pulls out its armed forces from occupied Kashmir. “Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted from his office because he betrayed the Kashmiris. The parliamentarians took the oath that they would protect Pakistan and Kashmir”, he said and added that any deviation from it would have consequences. Hafiz Saeed said he would gather people across Pakistan for the “cause of Kashmir” and try to help Kashmiris get their “destination of freedom. “I was detained for 10 months only to stop my voice for Kashmir,” Saeed told his supporters.
India on Thursday expressed displeasure at the imminent release of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who it accuses of organising the 2008 Mumbai attacks. “India is outraged that a self-confessed and a UN proscribed terrorist is allowed to walk free and continue with his agenda,” Raveesh Kumar, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters at a weekly briefing in New Delhi.
Kumar said Saeed’s release will give an impression that Pakistan supports non-state actors. Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and the United Nations over his alleged role in the attacks that left nearly 166 people dead, including Western nationals. JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attacks.
The United States identifies Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the largest and most active terrorist organisations in South Asia. Founded in 1987 by Hafiz Saeed, Abdullah Azzam and Zafar Iqbal in Afghanistan, the group was headquartered in Muridke before it was disbanded and re-organised. The Indian spokesman said that Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s comments on Kashmir are ‘nothing but re-articulation of the agenda of terrorists who have thrived across the border’, the Home Ministry today said after the founder of the banned JuD terror outfit walked free from house arrest in Lahore. Asked about Saeed’s statement on Kashmir, a senior Home Ministry official said, “The principled and consistent stand of the Government of India on the issue is that Jammu and Kashmir is and will remain an integral part of India.
Pak rejects Indian reaction
In response to a question regarding comments made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs on the release of Hafiz Saeed, the Foreign Office spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that Pakistan remains committed to the implementation of UNSC 1267 sanctions regime and has taken several steps in this regard.
The spokesperson took exception to self-serving insinuations. The courts in Pakistan, pursuant to their constitutional duty, are determined to uphold rule of law and due process for all citizens of Pakistan. Legal processes are anchored in rule of law, not dictates of politics and posturing.
It is in the interest of all states to speak and act in a manner that is consistent with the imperatives of adhering to rule of law at the national and international levels. Pakistan’s resolve, actions and successes in the fight against terrorism, terrorist violence and terrorists is unmatched in the world. Pakistan condemns and opposes all forms of terrorism by any individual or group. Pakistan also opposes and condemns acts of terrorism inside Pakistan and elsewhere by India, which claims to be a champion of democracy, and international law, according to the spokesperson.