New Delhi: India on Thursday said it was outraged that a Pakistani judicial panel had recommended the release from house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group and the man accused by India of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
Saeed and four of his aides were put under house arrest in January for 90 days under local laws by the Punjab provincial government in Pakistan. Speculation was then rife that this was due to fears that the new Trump administration in the US would be acting tough against terrorism and states harbouring terrorists. Saeed’s detention was subsequently extended several times.
India says Saeed is the main plotter of the 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people were killed between 26-29 November.
In June 2014, Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) was declared a foreign terrorist organization by the US. JuD is believed to be the front organization for the banned LeT. The US has also put a $10 million bounty on Saeed’s head.
On Wednesday, the Judicial Review Board of Pakistan’s Punjab province ordered Saeed’s release in the reported absence of any evidence from the Pakistan government to back its charge that Saeed was a threat to security.
India reacted sharply to the move, saying that it displayed Pakistan’s “lack of seriousness" in bringing to justice “perpetrators of heinous acts of terrorism, including by individuals and entities designated by the United Nations."
“It also appears to be an attempt by the Pakistani system to mainstream proscribed terrorists," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
Saeed, who Kumar described as the “prime organizer of the Mumbai terror attack in which many Indians and nationals of several other countries were killed", was also “responsible for unleashing numerous other terror attacks against Pakistan’s neighbours," he said.
“Pakistan has not changed its policy of shielding and supporting non-state actors and its true face is visible for all to see," Kumar said.
“It is the responsibility of the Pakistani government to fulfil its international obligations and take credible and effective action against terrorists like Hafiz Saeed. India, as indeed the entire international community, is outraged that a self-confessed and UN proscribed terrorist is being allowed to walk free and continue his evil agenda," he added.
In another development, Kumar said India has responded positively to an offer made by Pakistan to allow the wife of an alleged Indian spy jailed by Islamabad to visit him in prison. Kulbhushan Jadhav, a 46-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was in April sentenced to death by Pakistan’s Field General Court Martial on charges of alleged “involvement in espionage and sabotage activities" against Pakistan.
He was arrested by Pakistani authorities last year and accused of aiding insurgents in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province. The case is at present pending before the International Court of Justice.
Kumar said that in India’s response, New Delhi had “conveyed that the wife of Mr. Jadhav would like to travel along with her mother-in-law for the meeting."
“We have also sought sovereign guarantee from the government of Pakistan to ensure the safety, security and well-being of the wife and the mother of Mr. Jadhav and that they shall not be questioned, harassed or interrogated during their visit and stay in Pakistan," he said.
“We have further asked that a diplomat of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad shall be allowed to accompany them at all times, including during the meeting," Kumar said.
Enabling such a meeting however “does not absolve Pakistan of the violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and Human Rights and not following due process in treating Jadhav who remains incarcerated in Pakistan and faces death sentence through a farcical process and on concocted charges," he said.
India was “determined to pursue all measures with full vigour so as to secure the final release of an innocent Indian," he added.