New Delhi: Pakistan Friday distanced itself from the controversy over the meeting between Indian journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik and 26/11 mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, saying it was “a meeting between two private citizens”.
“It was a meeting between two private citizens, it is not proper to comment,” Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said.
Answering a barrage of questions on the controversial meeting at an event at the Press Club of India, the Pakistani envoy also said that Islamabad was “not in the loop” about the meeting between Vaidik and Saeed.
“Our government was not aware and nor was the government of India… Let’s not comment,” he said.
Basit said that Vaidik “keeps visiting Pakistan” and was part of a delegation that was in Pakistan to attend a regional peace initiative.
“We were not aware that he met Saeed,” he said.
To a question on the $10 million bounty on Saeed and how he is allowed to move around freely, the Pakistani high commissioner said his government has found “no evidence on the basis of which to try him”.
He said Pakistan was ready to put Saeed on trial if anyone could bring forward evidence against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder, but would not arrest him “just to please others”.
“He is a private citizen, we have no evidence against him” notwithstanding the US bounty on his head, said Basit.
To a question on how the JuD chief was allowed free run to spew venom against India, the high commissioner said that Saeed is not a government official and not a member of parliament but a private citizen.
He said both countries should not be deterred by such matters and move towards strengthening friendship.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad has denied any knowledge of the 2 July meeting in Lahore between Vaidik, who is known to be close to yoga guru Ramdev, and Saeed.
In Islamabad, the JuD has termed as “highly objectionable” the criticism in India about the meeting.
JuD spokesperson Yahya Mujahid, who claimed to have been present at the interaction between 26/11 mastermind Saeed and Vaidik, said in a statement issued late Thursday that the meeting was sought by Vaidik.
Stating that the JuD chief meets everyone unmindful of his nationality or religion, the spokesperson said: “Saeed has been meeting representatives of domestic and international media to put across his point of view.”
Mujahid said during that meet, significant discussions were held on India-Pakistan relations and the Narendra Modi government.