WASHINGTON: The US today said it has told Islamabad clearly that Hafiz Saeed is a "terrorist" and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, reacting strongly to Pakistan Prime Minister's remarks that there was no case against the Mumbai attack mastermind.
The reaction by the State Department came after Pakistan Premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, during an interview to Geo TV on Tuesday, referred to Saeed as 'sahib' or 'sir'.
"There is no case against Hafiz Saeed sahib in Pakistan. Only when there is a case can there be action," Abbasi had said when asked why there was no action against Saeed.
Reacting strongly to Abbasi's comments, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said: "We believe that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"He is listed by the UNSC 1267, the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for targeted sanctions due to his affiliation with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a designated foreign terror organisation," Nauert told reporters.
"We have made our points and concerns to the Pakistani government very clear. We believe that this individual should be prosecuted," she said.
Responding to a question about Abbasi's remarks, Nauert said the US had "certainly seen" the reports about his comment on Saeed.
"We regard him as a terrorist, a part of a foreign terrorist organisation. He was the mastermind, we believe, of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed many people, including Americans as well," she said.
Saeed, the chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), was released from house arrest in Pakistan in November.
The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. It has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.
Acknowledging that the US has had some challenging times with the government of Pakistan recently, Nauert said the Trump administration expected Pakistan to do a lot more to address terrorism issues.
"That's something that we've been very clear about all along. You know the news that we had that came out a couple weeks ago about our decision to withhold some of the security funding for Pakistan," she said.
Nauert said the entire administration is on the same page on the issue of US-Pakistan relationship.
Early this month, the US suspended about USD 2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, accusing it of not doing enough in the fight against terrorism.
In retaliation, Pakistan reportedly suspended military and intelligence co-operation with the US.
The State Department yesterday said it has not received any formal information in this regard from Pakistan.