Time to 'rescind' Pak's major non-NATO ally status: US expert

Washington, Nov 23: A top American counter-terrorism expert has urged the Trump administration to "rescind" the major non-NATO ally status given to Pakistan after a court in Lahore ordered to free Mumbai terror attack mastermind and banned JuD chief Hafiz Saeed from detention. 

The banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) head, carrying a bounty of USD 10 million announced by the US for his role in terror activities, has been under detention since January this year. 

The Trump administration yesterday said that Saeed is a terrorist leader designated by both the United Nations and the United States, hours after a Pakistani court ordered his release from detention. 

"Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally," Bruce Riedel, a top US expert on security, South Asia and counter-terrorism told PTI. 

"In a word, the release is an outrage. Before long we will read news reports of Hafiz Saeed leading more rallies with thousands of people," Alyssa Ayres, former State Department official who is currently with the Council on Foreign Relations, said after the Lahore High Court yesterday ordered the Pakistani government to free Saeed.

Saeed is a UN-sanctioned individual terrorist who leads a UN-sanctioned terrorist organisation, Ayres said, alleging that Pakistan does not see fit to follow through on its obligations to uphold UN Security Council (UNSC) terrorist designations.

"Pakistan cannot credibly claim to be fighting terrorism while failing its most basic security obligation to UNSC designations," Ayres said.

According to Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center, one should not be surprised by this announcement. 

"Pakistani legal authorities have frequently hinted they have insufficient evidence to justify his continued detention, so it was just a matter of time before this militant, who happens to be a critical Pakistani state asset, walks free. 

"This news will certainly rankle US officials, who often point out that the dozens of casualties in the Mumbai terror attack included several Americans," Kugelman said. 

Saeed's release will reinforce Washington's longstanding belief that Pakistan embraces a selective policy toward terrorism that entails coddling militants that help serve Pakistani interests, he said. 

"All this said, we should not overstate the impact this move will have on US-Pakistan relations," Kugelman said. 

For the Trump administration, whose policy towards Pakistan revolves above all around protecting American lives, the terror group of greatest concern in Pakistan is the Haqqani Network, which the US blames for various attacks on American and Western targets in Afghanistan.