The Trump administration on Friday (July 19) expressed doubts over Pakistan’s intentions in arresting Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, saying his previous arrest made no difference either to his activities or that of his outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we have been looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window dressing,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday, ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US next week.
Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist was arrested on Wednesday – the seventh time since December 2001, when he was nabbed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.
“Let me reassure you, we are clear eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusions about the support that we could see from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action,” the official said when asked about the actions that Pakistan has taken against the terrorist group and if the US believes in them.
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“I noticed that Pakistan has taken some initial steps such as pledging to seize assets of some of these terrorist groups. And, of course, they put under arrest Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks,” said the official requesting anonymity.
But the official quickly noted that this was the seventh time that Saeed was arrested since 2001.
“That is why we are very clear eyed and realistic when you see him arrested” as he has been arrested and released in the past. “So we would like to see that Pakistan takes sustained action in actually prosecuting these people,” the official said.
“Quite frankly, the previous arrest of Hafiz Muhammed Saeed hasn’t made a difference and the LeT has been able to operate. So we’re monitoring the situation,” said the senior administration official as reporters asked questions on the links between Pakistani intelligence services and terrorist groups.
The US “remains concerned” about terrorist groups that continue to operate in Pakistan, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network.
“We do have concerns about links between these groups and Pakistan intelligence services in the military. That’s no secret,” the official said.
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The US, the official said, welcomes Prime Minister Khan’s pledge that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used by militant groups and its vocal leadership and the Trump administration is pressing for a new direction over the issue.
According to the official, the US has seen some initial steps with Pakistan pledging to seize the assets of some of these terrorist leaders, pledged to reform the madrassa and has taken under administrative control some of the facilities owned by these groups.
Prime Minister Khan himself said that Pakistan cannot reach its full potential unless it has peace and stability in the region.
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Of course, peace and stability in the region would require it to crack down on the terrorist and militant groups that are creating the instability, the official said.
Pakistan really needs to prove that this time they are something different, he said.