Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan militant under house arrest

AGENCIES , ISLAMABAD AND LAHORE, PAKISTAN

Pakistani authorities have placed the former head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamic militant group under house arrest, a spokesman for the Islamic charity he now runs said yesterday.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed abandoned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2001 -- a day before it was banned by Pakistan's military ruler President Pervez Musharraf -- and set up the Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, regarded as its political wing.

The US has designated both as terrorist organizations.

"They informed us last night that Hafiz could not leave his residence and this restriction is for one month," Yahya Mujahid, Jamaat-ud-Dawa's spokesman said.

He said the charity had been banned from all public activities.

After joining a US-led global war on terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, Pakistan put the leaders of several militant organizations under house arrest. Saeed has been put under house arrest several times before, but he has been operating freely for the past few years.

Pakistan's reluctance to act more strongly against these groups probably stems from the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency's history of support for their activities, according to analysts.

Mujahid said police had been stationed at Saeed's residence and police had also cancelled permission for Jamaat-ud-Dawa to hold a rally in Lahore tomorrow.

India has called for Pakistan to act more forcefully to shut down militant organizations in the wake of the Mumbai blasts, and New Delhi's suspicions of Pakistani links to the attacks have jeopardized a peace process the nuclear-armed rivals began more than two years ago.

There was no immediate official reaction from India, but foreign ministry officials in New Delhi expressed a mixture of surprise and scepticism.

"Pakistan is probably trying to give the impression that they are doing something about these groups. Such house arrests have taken place in the past as well and these leaders end up living in luxury," one official, who requested anonymity, said. India cancelled a meeting to review the peace process last month.

Both sides have subsequently said they want to go on with talks, but tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats for spying last week showed how strained relations have become.

An attack by Pakistani militants on India's parliament in December 2001 brought the two countries to the brink of a fourth war in mid-2002. Lashkar-e-Taiba was one of the groups implicated in the attack.

Lashkar-e-Taiba say it only operates out of Indian Kashmir, although members of Lashkar have been arrested in the US.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is regarded within the intelligence community as a fund-raising front for Lashkar-e-Taiba. It was added to a US State Department terrorist list earlier this year, and while Pakistan has put it on a watchlist it is not banned.

In a report issued last year, the State Department said Lashkar used the charity to gather funds and maintain ties with religious militant groups around the world, ranging from the Philippines to the Middle East and Chechnya.

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