Islamabad: UN-proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s recent arrest is not linked to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States, a Pakistani official said on Saturday.
The Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, Firdous Ashiq Awan, made the statement during a news conference.
She added the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief’s arrest is also not linked to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has warned Pakistan to curb terror financing or face being blacklisted by the anti-money laundering watchdog. Islamabad is already on the organisation’s “grey list” and has repeatedly failed to meet its FATF commitments.
“But the arrest of the religion-political leader of a proscribed party was part of the ongoing measures under the National Action Plan,” she added.
The terrorist was arrested in Pakistan on charges related to terror financing on July 17. He was sent to seven days in judicial custody, which coincides with Khan’s three-day visit to the US from July 21 to July 23.
India has dismissed the “gimmick”, highlighting how Hafiz has been previously released on multiple occasions but justice is yet to be delivered.
“The question is whether this time it would be more than a cosmetic exercise and whether Saeed will be tried and sentenced for his terrorist activities,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar stated.
Experts believe that Hafiz’s arrest is Pakistan’s bid to appease the United States, as US-Pakistan relations have been strained under the leadership of US President Donald Trump. Trump discontinued aid amounting to USD 1.3 billion to Pakistan last year, adding that it would remain suspended until the country acts against militant safe havens on its soil.
Hafiz, the mastermind of the 26/11 terror attacks which killed over 165 people including US citizens, is also accused of plotting the ghastly 2001 Parliament attack in India. Both India and the US have repeatedly called for justice to be delivered to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Recently, the US, UK and France floated a resolution in the UN Security Council to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist following the February 14 Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir. JeM took responsibility for the attack, which killed over 40 CRPF personnel. In a major diplomatic victory for India, Masood was blacklisted by the UNSC on May 1.