The United States has called for Hafiz Saeed's prosecution "to the fullest extent of the law", following Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's remark that no action could be taken against the UN-designated terrorist. Abbasi, during an interview to Geo TV on Tuesday, referred to Saeed as 'sahib' or 'sir'.
"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.
"So we’ve certainly seen the reports about this, that the Pakistani Government has said that no case has been registered against this individual, Hafiz Saeed Sahib. Many of you may recall we talked about this a couple weeks ago, about who this individual is. We regard him as a terrorist, a part of a foreign terrorist organization. He was the mastermind, we believe, of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed many people, including Americans as well."
Responding to a question, Nauert said the US has "certainly seen" the reports about Abbasi's comment on Saeed.
Saeed, the chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), was released from house arrest in Pakistan in November. The US 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. 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.
"We have made our points and our concerns to the Pakistani Government very clear. We believe that this individual should be prosecuted. The Pakistani Government released him from house arrest not that long ago. We believe that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," she said.
"So I just want to remind people of that, of who this individual is, and make it clear that we have addressed our concerns with the Pakistani Government," she added.
Nauert said the entire administration is on the same page on the issue of US-Pakistan relationship. Early this month, the US suspended about USD 2 billion worth of security assistance to Pakistan accusing it of not doing enough in the fight against terrorism.
In retaliation, Pakistan suspended military and intelligence co-operation with the US. The State Department on Thursday said it has not received any formal information in this regard from Pakistan.
(With inputs from PTI)