Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri shared a stage with militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba’s chief Hafeez Saeed at an event in Islamabad, reports said on Monday. Saeed is believed to be the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 160 people were killed.
The development comes days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the United Nations that the Imran Khan-led administration has “turned the tide against terrorism”.
A photograph of the two men sharing the stage went viral on Monday, a day after they reportedly participated in a conference organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council. In the photo, Qadri and Saeed are seen on the dais with a banner that says the conference is being organised to discuss the “defence of Pakistan” and the Kashmir dispute.
Several Twitter handles, believed to be run by supporters of Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah organisation, quoted Qadri as saying that Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed him to attend the event as the council’s agenda represents the “sentiments of the whole Pakistani nation”, the Hindustan Times reported.
Qadri reportedly told the gathering of around 40 religious and extremist groups that Pakistan is an atomic power that will respond to India’s “mischief” in a befitting manner. “Our military is ready, do not be under the impression that there will not be any response to a surgical strike,” the minister was quoted as saying.
On Saturday, Qureshi claimed that India had chosen “politics over peace” by calling off a scheduled bilateral dialogue “on flimsy grounds”. “Pakistan continues to face terrorism that is financed, facilitated and orchestrated by our eastern neighbour,” Qureshi said.