Ahead of Imran Khan visit to US, Trump claims he pressured Pakistan into arresting Hafiz Saeed

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Ahead of Imran Khan visit to US, Trump claims he pressured Pakistan into arresting Hafiz SaeedWASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed Pakistan arrested Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed “after a ten year search,” because of the pressure his administration exerted over the past two years.

“After a ten year search, the so-called “mastermind” of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump said in a tweet that caused surprise and invited some ridicule from regional experts because Saeed has never been in hiding to merit a search. He has been operating openly and is taken into protective custody by Pakistani authorities when there is international scrutiny following a terrorist attack.

After a ten year search, the so-called “mastermind” of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Gre… https://t.co/XoxP9gak3j

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1563372965000

“Finding him was never an issue. He operated freely and was highly visible. He has been arrested and released many times over. @POTUS shd immediately fire whoever gave him the wrong information,” Pakistan's former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani tweeted in response to Trump’s claim.

However, Trump’s tweet is evidently aimed at setting the stage for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Washington DC next week, even at the risk of embarrassing his guest by publicly revealing the pressure that led to the arrest.

Khan is arriving in Washington DC on July 20/21 and is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on July 22.

The Khan trip has been facilitated largely by US Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services committee who visited Pakistan earlier this year to find a way out for the US from the Afghan imbroglio. Since then, Pakistan appears to be ticking off the US wishlist in an effort to ingratiate itself again to Washington under a President with a known and whimsical preference for strongmen.

But its actions in incarcerating terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed generated the usual eye-rolls in regional analysts’ community that has seen all this before. In fact, even before Trump’s tweet boasting about US pressure, analysts took a bleak view of Pakistan’s motive and bonafides on the matter.

“After watching this cycle over and over again with no serious attempt to bring justice to the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks over more than a decade, it’s hard to be anything other than cynical about this latest arrest,” tweeted Alyssa Ayres, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia and now a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). And from Georgetown University’s Christine Fair, who has investigated and written extensively on Pakistan’s patronage of terrorism: “Understand these arrests are ‘protective custody’ and have no mitigating impacts upon his operational control over his empire. Also Jaish e Mohammed is the primary jihad vehicle right now. So it's low cost dramabazi for al Bakistan.”

Even Pakistani journalists snickered at the Khan government’s action. “Arrest. Free. Repeat,” Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist living in exile, wrote on Twitter.