India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over a minister in the Imran Khan-led government sharing a stage with 26/11 terror attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, days after the images of the two emerged. Sources told The Indian Express that a top Pakistan diplomat was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi on Friday, and a similar demarche was made in Islamabad by the Indian High Commission.
India pointed out that Saeed is a UN-proscribed terrorist, and the US has offered a $10-million bounty on him. Pakistan’s minister of religious affairs and interfaith harmony Noorul-Haq Qadri addressed the All-Parties Conference (APC) organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), an umbrella coalition of more than 40 Pakistani political and religious parties that advocate conservative policies. The DPC supports “Kashmir’s freedom movement”.
Qadri was seen seated near Saeed as he addressed the APC in Islamabad on Sunday. A banner in the background said the conference was in “defence of Pakistan”, and mentioned “Kashmir” as well as “threats from India”. On Wednesday, even Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had Qadri “should have been more sensitive” while sharing the dais with the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind. “I will go home and certainly ask him why he did that. I am told it was an event to highlight the situation in Kashmir,” Qureshi told a Washington audience on Wednesday when asked about Qadri’s presence on the dais with the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief.
“It had nothing to do with Lashkar-e-Taiba. There were other political elements there. He happened to be one of them,” Qureshi said. “I think he (Qadri) should have been more sensitive, but it wasn’t that he subscribes to his (Saeed’s) point of view.” The development comes soon after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week where she strongly condemned Pakistan. Blaming Pakistan for providing safe haven to terrorists such as Saeed, Swaraj said Islamabad glorifies terrorism and spreads lies about India.
Swaraj, who had used similar strong language to lambast Pakistan in 2016 and 2017, accused Pakistan of being an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity, and then went to draw a parallel between Osama Bin Laden and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, and pointed out how the two have faced different fate so far.
Swaraj said: “The most startling evidence of this duplicity was the fact that Osama bin Laden, the architect and ideologue of 9/11, was given safe haven in Pakistan. America had declared Osama bin Laden its most dangerous enemy, and launched an exhaustive, worldwide search to bring him to justice. What America perhaps could not comprehend was that Osama would get sanctuary in a country that claimed to be America’s friend and ally: Pakistan. Eventually, America’s intelligence services discovered the truth of this hypocrisy, and its special forces delivered justice. But Pakistan continued to behave as if nothing had happened…. The killers of 9/11 met their fate; but the mastermind of 26/11 still roams the streets of Pakistan.”