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NEW DELHI: A day after global terrorist Hafiz Saeed was freed from house arrest, the president of an influential think tank said it’s a “mystery” why Pakistan is still considered a ‘major non-Nato’ ally “when it’s anything but” that.
Richard Haass, president of the prestigious think tank Council on Foreign Relations, also tweeted saying Pakistan has “harbored terrorists for years and provides sanctuary to the Taliban” and others, including Saeed, on whose head the US has placed a $10 million bounty.
Haass says on Twitter “opinions my own”, about any comments he posts on the microblogging site. But his position as president of the Council on Foreign Relations – called “the nation’s most influential foreign-policy think tank” by Inter Press Service News Agency – means his “own opinions” aren’t to be sneezed at.
Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief, moments after his release yesterday said he will gather people across Pakistan for the “cause of Kashmir” and help Kashmiris secure “freedom”. The man designated a terrorist even by the United Nations then cut cakes amid joyous and raucous celebrations by his supporters. The JuD chief and founder of the banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is now back to roaming free all over Pakistan, spreading hate and fomenting terror like he’s done before. Saeed addressing huge rallies with supporters screaming every time he exhorts murder and terror will again become a common occurrence in Pakistan.
All this is done by Saeed and his supporters openly. Not just that, they also tom-tom every such rally on social and other media because they want the world to notice. And the US and the world do. Notice, that is. But no one does anything about it.
A growing chorus
Still, the Council on Foreign Relations president joins what’s becoming a chorus of influential domestic voices asking that Pakistan’s status as a ‘major non-Nato ally’ be taken away.
A day ago, a top American counter-terrorism expert told PTI news agency that Saeed still eludes justice nine years after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
“Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally,” said Bruce Riedel, a top U.S. expert on security, South Asia and counter-terrorism.
A former Pakistan ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani retweeted what a Pakistani journalist said after Saeed’s release.
“Hafiz Saeed thanks the judges for his release from house arrest. Where else could a globally-designated terrorist openly challenge the government? #Pakistan,” the journalist tweeted.
The Pakistani journalist was likely referring to the fact that Saeed’s release by the Lahore High Court came despite entreaties by a senior Pakistan finance ministry official who said that freeing Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country, reported Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
Those entreaties obviously fell on willingly deaf ears as the emboldened Lahore High Court even ignored the US administration’s August threat to cut off all aid to Pakistan if it doesn’t stop providing “safe havens to agents of chaos and terror”.
The US hasn’t really followed up with stringent punishment since those fighting words in August from US President Donald Trump.
In fact, a significant alteration to a bill that would have pinned Pakistan down on the Saeed-founded and banned organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was watered down last week in its final iteration. The US Congress decided against including action against terror group LeT as a condition to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the ‘war on terror’.
In September, the version of the bill passed by the US Senate said Pakistan must show “it has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e- Taiba from using any Pakistan territory as a haven and for fundraising and recruiting efforts”.
Now, Pakistan must only show it has acted against the Afghanistan-oriented Haqqani Network (no relation the Haqqani cited in this article) and not the India-focussed LeT.