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Pakistan says US has no evidence against religious leader

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, April 6, IRNA -- Pakistan has said that it cannot take action against Hafeez Saeed, leader of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, in the absence of solid evidences.

Pakistan made the statement two days after the US announced a reward of 10 million dollars for his arrest or information which leads to his arrest.

The US has offered a reward of 10 million dollars for Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and a bounty of two million dollars for his deputy Abdul Rahman Makki.

Saeed, who now leads Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, was accused of masterminding the Mumai attacks.

Foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said it is 'strange' that the US has offered a bounty of millions of dollars for evidence and information against Saeed and Makki.

'We have clearly stated our position that there is no concrete evidence against Saeed,” the spokesman said at weekly press briefing while replying to volley of questions.

'Pakistan would prefer to have concrete evidence to initiate a legal process but in the absence of that, we cannot do anything,' the spokesman said.

Also on Wednesday Pakistan had sought 'concrete evidence' against the two men from the US in a Foreign Ministry statement while issuing the country’s first formal reaction.

Basit said that even the US does not possess any evidence linking the JuD chief to terrorism.

The clarification about the bounty issued by the State Department spokesman has made it clear that 'even the US does not possess evidence against the two individuals,' the Pakistani spokesman said.

Basit did not agree with a question that the US bounty was aimed at influencing Pakistan's ongoing parliamentary review of its relationship with the US and NATO.

Pakistan called for the review after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in airstrikes by NATO fighter jets in November.

A joint session of parliament is debating new terms of engagement with the US and the process is likely to be completed this month.

Replying to a question, Basit said he was not aware if there is a provision for offering a bounty under international law.

'A national government can take any step that is not in violation of the international law. I am not sure whether a bounty is covered under international law,' he added.

Basit refused to state whether Saeed had figured in discussions on Wednesday between foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, saying only that the two leaders had discussed 'all issues'.

Issues such as the bounty for Saeed 'have to be addressed through a legal procedure' and it is not 'desirable to get into public discussion' on such matters, the spokesman said.

The spokesman also shot down the impression that the US and Pakistan could reach some sort of understanding on Saeed on the lines of the agreement on drone strikes that was finalised under the previous military regime.

'When we say that we do not have any concrete evidence to proceed legally against any individual, I do not see any discrepancy.

'The government of Pakistan cannot proceed against any individual without undeniable evidence.

'I see no discrepancy or dichotomy in our stated position and what we have actually been saying to the US,' Basit said.

'Obviously, Pakistan would not come under any pressure because ours is a principled and legal position,' the spokesman said.

He said Pakistan believes the US has respect for Pakistan’s judicial system and both countries should be mindful of each other's limitations, he added.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 80063715

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