‘I’m Lashkar’s biggest supporter, they like me too’, says Pervez Musharraf

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Pervez Musharraf

NEW DELHI: Former military dictator of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf said this week that he is banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) “biggest supporter” and that he’s aware they “like” him too.

When asked by Pakistan’s AryTV if he’s similarly appreciative of LeT’s founder and mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks Hafiz Saeed, Musharraf nodded, saying Saeed “is involved in Kashmir” and he “supports” that involvement.

Saeed, a United Nations-designated terrorist was freed from house arrest last week on an order from the Lahore high court. Musharraf, meanwhile, was declared a fugitive from justice by Pakistan in August this year.

“I am the biggest supporter of LeT and I know they like me and JuD (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) also likes me,” said Musharraf, referring to both groups founded by Saeed. JuD is the LeT’s ‘charitable’ wing.

The US has also branded Saeed a terrorist and put a $10 million bounty on Saeed’s head after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Musharraf claimed Saeed was not involved in the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 because Saeed “himself denied the charges” of being the attacks’ mastermind.

The Council on Foreign Relations president joins what’s becoming a chorus of influential domestic voices asking that Pakistan’s status as a ‘major non-Nato ally’ be taken away.

After Saeed was freed last week, a top American counter-terrorism expert told PTI news agency that it’s time to remove Pakistan ‘non-Nato ally’ status.

“Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally,” said Bruce Riedel, a top U.S. expert on security, South Asia and counter-terrorism.

Saeed’s release by the Lahore High Court came despite entreaties by a senior Pakistan finance ministry official who said that freeing Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems to the country, reported Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.

Those entreaties obviously fell on willingly deaf ears as the emboldened Lahore High Court even ignored the US administration’s August threat to cut off all aid to Pakistan if it doesn’t stop providing “safe havens to agents of chaos and terror”.

The US hasn’t really followed up with stringent punishment since those fighting words in August from US President Donald Trump.

In fact, a significant alteration to a bill that would have pinned Pakistan down on the Saeed-founded and banned organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was watered down last week in its final iteration. The US Congress decided against including action against terror group LeT as a condition to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the ‘war on terror’.

In September, the version of the bill passed by the US Senate said Pakistan must show “it has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e- Taiba from using any Pakistan territory as a haven and for fundraising and recruiting efforts”.

Now, Pakistan must only show it has acted against the Afghanistan-oriented Haqqani Network (no relation the Haqqani cited in this article) and not the India-focussed LeT.

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