India urges credible crackdown – Protests as cleric held

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Supporters of Hafiz Saeed protest his arrest in Islamabad, Pakistan on Jan 30. Pakistan has placed the leader of a charity linked to a militant group under house arrest. Hafiz Saeed

LAHORE, Pakistan, Jan 31, (AFP): Protests were held in Pakistan’s major cities Tuesday after authorities detained one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks after years of pressure to act against his group. Firebrand cleric Hafiz Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) group and has a $10 million US bounty on his head, is to be placed under “preventative detention”, according to an order from the interior ministry.

Police took Saeed away from a mosque in Lahore late Monday and escorted him to his residence where they appear to be holding him under house arrest, an AFP journalist reported. “My detention orders are unlawful and we will challenge them in the court,” Saeed told reporters before he was led away by police. “These orders have come from Washington,” he claimed. JuD, listed as a terror outfit by the United Nations, is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attack on India’s financial capital. Saeed is believed by the US State Department to be one of the masterminds of the attack. There has not yet been any reaction from either India or the US to Saeed’s detention. JuD organisers told AFP Tuesday that protests were planned in major cities including Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. A spokesman for the group, Nadeem Awan, confirmed the detention order would be challenged in court.

Horror
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 JuD operated freely across the country, popular for its charity work especially in the wake of natural disasters, and despite the bounty Saeed led a high-profile public life, regularly delivering fiery anti-India speeches. India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning the Mumbai attacks, while Pakistan has alleged that India failed to give it crucial evidence. It was unclear why Pakistan chose to take action now.

The detention order placed JuD and a foundation tied to it on a watch list, and also ordered the detention of four other members. As he was escorted away by police Monday Saeed vowed his movement would continue “until Kashmir’s independence”. Pakistan and India both control part of Kashmir but claim it in full, and have fought two of their three wars over the territory. Meanwhile, India Tuesday demanded Pakistan conduct a “credible crackdown” on militant groups after one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks was detained at a mosque in Lahore.

Exercises
“Exercises such as yesterday’s orders against Hafiz Saeed and others have been carried out by Pakistan in the past also,” India’s foreign ministry said after the leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) group was placed under “preventative detention” on Monday night. “Only a credible crackdown on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organisations involved in cross-border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity,” it added in a statement. The firebrand cleric, who has a $10 million bounty on his head, was taken away by police and escorted to a residence where he now appears to be under house arrest. Four other JuD followers were detained in the same operation. It was unclear why Pakistan chose to take action against the group but authorities have said they were “under obligation to take some action”. India says JuD is a front for the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which it accuses of carrying out the attacks on India’s financial capital in November 2008 which killed more than 160 people. India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning the Mumbai attacks, while Pakistan has alleged that India failed to give it crucial evidence. Islamabad briefly detained Saeed in the aftermath of the attacks but he was later released on court orders. His close aide Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, whom India says was in continuous touch with the attackers in Mumbai, was also released in 2015.

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