ISLAMABAD -  Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s release has instigated a new phase of confrontation for Pakistan with the United States and India.

Both India and the US raised fingers at Pakistan for freeing an alleged “global terrorist”.

Soon as Saeed was released India said the move was “an attempt by Pakistani system to mainstream proscribed terrorists.” India’s external affairs ministry said: “It is evident that Pakistan has not changed its policy of shielding and supporting non-state actors and its true face is for all to see.”

On Friday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US was “deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba leader Hafiz Seed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan.”

In a statement released here by the US embassy, she said: “LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens. The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes.”

In May 2008, Nauert said, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. 

“Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attack in which six American citizens were killed. [The] LeT and several of its front organizations, leaders, and operatives remain under both State Department and Treasury Department sanctions. Since 2012, the United States has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.”

Pakistan’s relationship with the US and India has been confrontational over the months and Saeed’s release is bound to worsen the ties.

Pakistan’s immediate reply to both the countries was that there was no evidence against Saeed to continue his house arrest.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was in contact with Washington and New Delhi over the issue.

“We have told them a court had ordered his release after a lengthy procedure. There was no evidence against him to continue his detention. Even India did not provide actionable evidence,” said one official, citing diplomatic communications with the US and India. Another official at the ministry said that New Delhi’s claim that Saeed orchestrated terror attacks in India were “mere verbal allegations”.

“We have been asking India to provide evidence against Hafiz Saeed or anyone else. We can’t act on allegations,” he added.

Hafiz Saeed, accused by India of masterminding the 2008 assault in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed, was released on Friday under an order by the Lahore High Court.  The JuD chief had been under house arrest since January.

The JuD chief has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks saying he only ran a charity to help the people in need. The US and India allege JuD is a front for the LeT.

Earlier, a top American counter-terrorism expert urged the Donald Trump administration to “rescind” the major non-Nato ally status given to Pakistan after Hafiz Saeed’s release. “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 said.

This week, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said the conditionality related to action against the Haqqani network for reimbursement of $700 million to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) was “not new”.

He said the US Congress recently passed the National Defence Authorisation Bill for fiscal year 2018, which included provisions for reimbursement of $700 million to Pakistan under the CSF.

“The conditionality with regard to the Haqqani network is not new and was also part of previous authorisations. Efforts to stretch this conditionality by adding other organisations did not succeed,” Faisal said.  Analysts Jehangir Ashraf Qazi said Hafiz Saeed’s release might have been ordered by the court but it would give the US and India an opportunity to criticise Islamabad’s anti-terror policy.

Qazi said the rise of the extremists and the prolonged sit-in of clerics in Islamabad had also exposed the government’s authority to deal with the rebels.

“Not only the US and India, but China will also see his release as alarming. China has been fighting militants in one of its provinces and has also complained to Pakistan about the infiltration,” he explained.

Qazi said at a time when the US was linking aid to Pakistan’s performance in the war on terror, the release of the JuD chief would not be helpful.

International affairs expert Dr Pervez Iqbal Cheema said India itself was nurturing the terrorists and blaming Pakistan for sheltering militants. He said even before Hafiz Saeed’s release, the US had been demanding of Pakistan to “do more” in the anti-terror war.

Cheema said India should provide evidence against the Pakistanis whom it accuses of promoting terrorism. “We cannot hang people on India’s demand. We have a system,” he maintained.