Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has admitted on the global stage that terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed “is a liability” for his country, one that “we need time to get rid of”. But in a sharp message to the US, he said Washington considered such men as darlings until a few years ago.
Speaking at the Asia Society seminar in New York on Tuesday, he said: It is very easy to say that Pakistan is supporting Haqqanis, Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are liabilities we have said they are liabilities but give us time to get rid of these liabilities because we have do not have the assets to match these liabilities and you are increasing them further.
Mr Asif, who is attending the UN General Assembly, added: “Don’t blame us for Haqqanis or don’t blame us for the Hafiz Saeeds. These were the people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back.
They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people.” Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that left 166 dead, roams free in Pakistan and recently launched a political party, saying he would contest elections in 2018.
Under growing international pressure to crack down on terrorists operating from its soil, Pakistan earlier this week opposed the registration of Hafiz Saeed’s political party Milli Muslim League. In a letter to its election body, Islamabad cited the refusal of security clearance by intelligence agencies and also said “some countries” have raised the subject diplomatically.
Hafiz Saeed has been declared a global terrorist by the UN and the US for his role in the Mumbai attack. He was placed under house arrest earlier this year and it was extended several times, but no formal charges have been filed against him so far.
Mr Asif’s comments on Hafiz Saeed follow Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s blistering attack on Pakistan at the UN General Assembly. Addressing leaders from 193 countries on Saturday, Ms Swaraj said: “We set up IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and ISRO. What did Pakistan make? They set up Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Haqqani Network, Hizbul Mujahiddeen.
Hafiz Saeed is accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai carnage of November 2008 that left 166 Indians and foreigners dead. New Delhi has been repeatedly asking Islamabad to prosecute him for his crimes. Asif said Pakistan was ready to work with the US for effective management of the Afghan border to stop terrorist infiltration and to facilitate a peace settlement in Afghanistan.
He underlined that there was no military solution to the dragging conflict in Afghanistan. “Scapegoating Pakistan for all the Afghan ills is neither fair nor accurate This will only help forces that we are trying to fight collectively.” Pakistan, he said, had done all it could to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan, making sure that Pakistani soil was not used against any country.
We are mindful of the strong desire in the US to bring the ‘long war’ in Afghanistan to an end. We support this objective wholeheartedly and are ready to help in any way we could to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. He made it clear that there were clear limits to what Pakistan could do vis-a-vis Afghanistan.
We cannot take responsibility for Afghanistan’s peace and security and be asked to achieve what the combined strength of some of the most powerful and richest countries could not accomplish.