Leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been placed in ‘preventative detention’ on orders of Interior Ministry.
Police in Lahore have placed a firebrand cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks under house arrest after the government issued a directive following years of pressure to act.
Hafiz Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group and has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, is to be placed under “preventative detention,” according to the order from the interior ministry.
Police took Saeed away from a mosque in Lahore late on Monday and escorted him to his residence where they appear to be holding him under house arrest, an AFP reporter saw. “My detention orders are unlawful and we will challenge them in the court,” Saeed told reporters before he was led away by police, vowing that his group would stage more rallies and protests over Kashmir.
Pakistan and India both control part of Kashmir but claim the whole of the territory and have fought two of their three wars over it since independence from Britain in 1947. India blames Pakistan for sending militant groups to foment unrest in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi. Islamabad denies the charge.
Dawa, listed as a terror outfit by the United Nations, is considered by the U.S. and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the attack on India’s financial capital. The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world as commandos battled the heavily armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of Nov. 26, 2008. It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.
Islamabad denies the charge.
But for years Dawa operated freely across the country, popular for its charity works especially in the wake of natural disasters, and testing Islamabad’s vow to tackle militancy. Despite the bounty against him Saeed led a high-profile public life, regularly delivering fiery anti-India speeches.
The detention order surfaced hours after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan hinted that a crackdown was imminent. He told reporters in Islamabad earlier Monday that, given the group had been under observation for years and was blacklisted internationally, Pakistan is “under obligation to take some action.”
“The situation will be clear on this by tomorrow,” he said, without giving further details. The order from the interior ministry placed Dawa and a foundation tied to it on a watch list, and also ordered the “preventative detention” of four other members in various cities in Punjab.
India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning and organizing the Mumbai attacks, while Pakistan has alleged that India failed to give it crucial evidence.
Islamabad’s decision in 2015 to release an alleged mastermind of the attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was slammed as an “insult” by New Delhi.