Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday referred to Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed as “sahib” or “sir” in an interview to local television channel Geo News.
When the interviewer asked Abbasi why there was no action against Saeed, who India alleges was the mastermind of the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, the prime minister said, “There is no case against Hafiz Saeed sahib in Pakistan.” Only when there is a case can there be action, he added.
Saeed, a United Nations-designated terrorist, was freed from house arrest on November 24 after an order from the Lahore High Court. The United States and India reacted sharply against the verdict. The United States offers a $10 million bounty for Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic charity, which is widely viewed as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Since his release, Saeed has vowed to contest in the upcoming general elections in Pakistan to highlight “the Kashmir cause internationally”. On December 25, 2017, he had opened the first office of his political party, the Milli Muslim League, in Lahore.
This was just days after the Pakistan government asked the Islamabad High Court not to let him register the party for the general elections in 2018. Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs told the court Saeed’s party would “breed violence and extremism in politics”. The United States has also raised concerns about Saeed contesting it.
In September, Pakistan’s Election Commission had refused to recognise the Milli Muslim League as a political party and had warned candidates from using the front’s name in election campaigns.
When the Geo News reporter asked Abbasi why the government did not let Saeed’s party go mainstream, the prime minister claimed that it wasn’t the government’s decision, and that the Election Commission acts according to its own rules.