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Pervez Musharraf declares ‘greatest support’ for Hafiz Saeed

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ISLAMABAD: Days after the release of Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed from house arrest, the country’s former military dictator Pervez Musharraf declared his complete support for the defunct militant groups, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and LeT founder, Saeed. Pakistan’s government has so far been cautious in its comments about his release on Friday.

“I am the greatest supporter of Lashkar and I know they (Lashkar and Jamat-ud-Dawa) are fond of me,” Musharraf said, adding that he liked Saeed and had met him. Musharraf’s declaration of support for LeT, JuD and its chief Saeed came during a TV discussion late on Tuesday. He was speaking from Dubai, where he has taken refuge after Pakistan charged him with treason.

“The reason that I like these organizations is that I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and pressuring the Indian army there. This (LeT and JuD) is the biggest force and they have been declared terrorists by India and the US jointly,” Musharraf said by way of explanation.

The former military dictator denied the role of LeT in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people. “This was an allegation levelled by India and supported by Washington,” he remarked.

His latest statement is a complete U-turn from his previous position when he was ruling the country as a champion of “enlightened moderation” and had declared the LeT a proscribed organization in 2002. When the talk show host asked him about his liberal outlook, Musharraf replied, “Yes, I am liberal in my thoughts but it does not mean that I am against all religious parties.”

Saeed was first detained under Musharraf’s rule on December 21, 2001, following Indian allegations of his involvement in the December 13, 2001, attack on the Lok Sabha and since then was arrested three more times when Musharraf was the president.

During the interview, the former president termed the US’ opposition to Saeed’s release, an “insult to Pakistan’s sovereignty”.

Washington had asked Pakistan last week to re-arrest Saeed. “The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” the US State Department had said in its statement.

It further stated that the JuD chief’s release sends a “deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s commitment to combating international terrorism”. “Pakistan’s inaction will have repercussions for bilateral relations and Pakistan’s global reputation,” Washington had warned, stressing that Islamabad should charge Saeed for his crimes.

“This language is offensive and insults Pakistan’s sovereignty. I would never accept this,” Musharraf said. “Please do not dictate to us. We have to decide whether Saeed has to be tried or punished,” he added.

Updated: November 29, 2017 — 6:18 pm

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