WASHINGTON: The White House said on Saturday there would be repercussions for US-Pakistan relations unless Islamabad took action to detain and charge newly freed Hafiz Saeed, accused of masterminding a 2008 assault in Mumbai, India.
A Pakistani court ordered the release on Wednesday of Hafiz Saeed, who was put under house arrest in January.
The White House on Saturday urged Pakistan to arrest Saeed, calling for him to be prosecuted over the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including Americans.
“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 White House said in a statement.
This is the first time the United States has acknowledged that the recent decision could have an impact on relations between the two countries, who are allies but view each other with suspicion.
Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks in which 10 gunmen attacked targets in India’s largest city. The violence brought nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India to the brink of war.
The United States had offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).
The White House said Pakistan’s failure to charge Saeed sent a “a deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s commitment to (combating) international terrorism.” It added that it also was counter to Pakistan’s claim that it did not provide sanctuary to militants.
On Friday the US State Department spokesperson said Washington is “deeply concerned” at the release of Hafiz Saeed. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Saeed’s organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including American citizens.
“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” Nauert said in a statement.
In response to the US State Department, Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) spokesman Yahya Mujahid said the US had announced $10 million reward, but was unable to produce any evidence against Hafiz Saeed in the last five years.
The JuD spokesman further said that Pakistani courts were free and expressing concerns over their verdict was akin to interfering in the internal matters of the country.