Islamabad, Apr 6: The case of Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is an “internal issue” and any evidence against him should be provided to Pakistan so that the courts can take action, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said yesterday.
Gilani made the remarks while responding to points raised by lawmakers during a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate about the USD 10 million bounty offered by the US for Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The premier said this was an internal issue of Pakistan and “if there is any concrete proof against Saeed then it should be provided to Pakistan, which has an independent judiciary”.
He pointed out that cases against Saeed were dismissed in the past due to lack of evidence.
Gilani said while speaking in parliament this evening that he had taken up the issue of the bounty with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides during a meeting yesterday.
He said he had informed Nides that at a time when Pakistan's parliament is framing new rules of engagement for the US, such “negative messages would increase the trust deficit”.
The premier further said he had telephoned main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and taken him into confidence on the government's position on the issue of the bounty.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told the joint session of parliament that she too had discussed the issue of the bounty with Nides yesterday.
She said she had told the American delegation that Saeed was a Pakistani citizen and the US should have informed Pakistan before taking such a decision.
In a related development, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters on the sidelines of an official function at Dera Allah Yar in Balochistan province that India had not yet provided any “credible evidence” against Saeed.
He said the way the US had announced a bounty for Saeed was against international norms and laws.
Malik said, “We have courts and institutions and the US should follow the protocols and laws of Pakistan”.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan “would not come under any pressure” as even the US does not possess any evidence linking Saeed to terrorism.
Pakistan cannot take any steps to initiate a legal process against Saeed in the absence of proof, he told a weekly news briefing.
Basit said it was “strange” that the US State Department had offered a bounty of millions of dollars for evidence and information against Saeed and his deputy, Abdul Rahman Makki.
The clarification about the bounty by the State Department spokesman yesterday made it clear that “even the US does not possess evidence against the two individuals”.
“We have clearly stated our position that there is no concrete evidence (against Saeed). Pakistan would prefer to have concrete evidence to initiate a legal process but in the absence of that, we cannot do anything,” he said.
The US has offered a reward of USD 10 million for Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba that was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and a bounty of USD two million for Makki.
Pakistan has sought “concrete evidence” against the two men from the US.
During the joint session of parliament, several lawmakers raised the issue of the bounty on Saeed.