Two days after Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi gave a clean chit to 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed by saying that Islamabad will not act against him as there is no case registered against 'sahib' in the country, the United States has called for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief's prosecution "to the fullest extent of the law".
"There is no case against Hafiz Saeed sahib in Pakistan. Only when there is a case can there be action," Abbasi said when asked why there was no action against Saeed. Reacting strongly to the comments, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US believes that Saeed should be prosecuted and they have told Pakistan as much.
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"We believe that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He is listed by the UNSC 1267, the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for targeted sanctions due to his affiliation with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a designated foreign terror organisation," Nauert said.
"We have made our points and concerns to the Pakistani government very clear. We believe that this individual should be prosecuted," Nauert added.
Responding to a question, Nauert said the US has "certainly seen" the reports about Abbasi's comment on Saeed. "We regard him as a terrorist, a part of a foreign terrorist organisation. He was the mastermind, we believe, of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed many people, including Americans as well," she said.
Saeed, the chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), was released from house arrest in Pakistan in November. The United States has labelled JuD the "terrorist front" for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group Saeed founded in 1987. LeT was responsible for carrying the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.
Acknowledging that the US has had some challenging times with the government of Pakistan recently, Nauert said the Trump administration expects Pakistan to do a lot more to address terrorism issues.
"That's something that we've been very clear about all along. You know the news that we had that came out a couple weeks ago about our decision to withhold some of the security funding for Pakistan," she said.
Nauert said the entire administration is on the same page on the issue of US-Pakistan relationship.