January 9, 2018
A Pakistani court has ordered the release of an anti-US cleric amid growing tensions between Islamabad and Washington over the so-called war on terror and a range of other issues.
Defense lawyer Fida Gul said Sufi Mohammad was set free on health grounds and the paperwork for his release was still being processed Tuesday.
The cleric, imprisoned since 2009, went to Afghanistan with thousands of volunteers to help the Taliban fight against Americans after the 2001 US-led invasion. He is also known as the father-in-law of Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.
Tensions arose in relations between the United States and Pakistan following President Donald Trump’s accusations that Pakistan was harboring “terrorists.” Senior civilian and military officials in Islamabad have vehemently denied the charge.
Last week, Trump said in his first tweet of 2018 that Washington had “foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.”
The United States is also withholding $255 million in aid from Pakistan against the backdrop of the souring ties.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has denounced as “counterproductive” Washington’s decision to suspend millions of dollars in security aid to Islamabad.
Pakistan’s central bank recently announced that it would be officially replacing the US dollar with the Chinese yuan in trade with Beijing, shortly after Washington accused Islamabad of harboring “terrorists.”
Washington has long accused Islamabad of allowing the Haqqani network, which is an affiliate of the Taliban militant group, to operate relatively freely in Pakistan’s porous border regions to carry out operations in Afghanistan. Islamabad denies the accusation, saying Washington is overlooking Pakistan’s sacrifices in its fight against terrorism.
Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, said over the weekend, “We have been the victim of terrorist attacks and how can we tolerate the presence of militants on our soil.”