US President Donald Trump’s misinformed enthusiasm for the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Toiba founder and the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, continued to be called out from all quarters, with the House foreign affairs committee joining diplomats and experts to dispute the president.
“FYI Pakistan wasn’t searching for him for 10 years,” the committee wrote on Twitter. “He’s been living freely, and was arrested and released in: December 2001, May 2002, October 2002, August 2006 (twice), December 2008, September 2009 and January 2017.”
“Let’s hold the (used an emoji for applause) until he’s convicted.”
Even the US state department sought to distance itself from the president. While it welcomed the arrest as a “positive step”, it focussed on his prosecution.
“A full & expeditious prosecution for his involvement in numerous acts of terror, such as the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans is necessary,” the state department’s south and central bureau wrote on twitter.
Shortly after the news of Saeed’s latest arrest came in Wednesday, President Trump had tweeted that “After a ten year search, the so-called “mastermind” of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” He had overlooked, in the process his own White House and the administration’s frustration with Pakistan over its reluctance to act decisively against the LeT founder.
The White House press secretary had threatened Pakistan with “repercussions” for not re-arresting Saeed in November 2017 after he was released from house arrest. Islamabad ignored the threat, and did nothing until his arrest Wednesday.
Pushback to the president’s tweet came swiftly, with former Pakistani ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani pointing out, also on twitter, that finding the terrorist mastermind “was never an issue” and that he had “operated freely and was highly visible”. He went on to ask the president to fire whoever gave him the “wrong information”.
Other experts said this was an “old trick” that Pakistan was playing on Trump — taking counter-terrorism measures, carrying out raids and making arrests around high-level meetings with the United States or visits. In this instance, it was linked to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to the White House for his first meeting with President Trump.
Trump has taken a tougher line on Pakistan’s patchy counter-terrorism record than his predecessors. He publicly called out Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” in a 2018 tweet slamming it for accepting American aid and also giving “safe haven to terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan”. Shortly after, the US announced the suspension of all security-related aid to Pakistan.
First Published: Jul 18, 2019 20:56 IST