US unhappy as 26/11 terrorist Hafiz Saeed vows to contest in Pak polls
20 Dec 2017
The United States is concerned about Jamaat-ud-Dawaah (JuD) Chief Hafiz Saeed running for office in Pakistan in 2018, the Trump administration has said.
The JuD head and founder of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba has earlier confirmed that the JuD will contest the 2018 general elections in Pakistan under the banner of the Milli Muslim League, which is yet to be registered with Pakistan's Election Commission.
Saeed is wanted by India for the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that claimed 166 lives, which he allegedly masterminded. He has been declared an international terrorist by the US, though China has blocked the United Nations from announcing a similar step.
"Hafiz Saeed, who was released by Pakistan from house arrest last November resulting in angry reaction from the US, was the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and is leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba," US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington on Monday.
"It's a group that the US government considers to be a terror organisation. We have many conversations with the government of Pakistan. One of the things that happened recently was that this guy was held on house arrest. Pakistan released him from house arrest, and now there's word that he may be running for some sort of office," she said.
Saeed, who has a $10-million American bounty on his head for terror activities, was freed by Pakistan on 24 November.
"I want to remind folks, we have a $10-million Reward for Justice programme that would reward for information that would bring him to justice. So I want to make that clear, so that everybody knows - $10 million, out for this guy. And we would certainly have concerns about him running for office," Nauert said.
The United States had also strongly condemned the release of the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader from house arrest and had called for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution. However, top Pakistani diplomats based in the US have claimed that there is no evidence against Hafiz Saeed.
"I can tell you his organisation that was responsible for those attacks is considered a foreign terror organisation. It's considered a foreign terror organisation by the US government for a reason, and for a good reason," Nauert said.
"I would imagine that, if we had any intelligence, and that's not an area that I can discuss anyway, but we would certainly share it with the Pakistanis on that front. I hope they'll do the right thing," she added.