THE LASKHKAR-E-TAYYEBA'S founder Hafeez Mohammed Sayeed was on Thursday put under house arrest in Lahore. The Pakistani government also denied permission to his organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), to hold a rally on August 14, the country's independence day.
The Pakistani officials declined to comment on the matter while Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao was quoted by a TV channel as saying that the reason for the detention would be revealed shortly. JD spokesperson Yahya Mujahid said Sayeed's house was "converted into a jail" and there were police pickets in front.
Sayeed, who was reportedly behind the attack on Parliament and the Mumbai blasts, figures on India's list of wanted persons. The intelligence agencies said Pakistan should go beyond house arrest, which it called "mere eyewash".
Intelligence officials said Sayeed's house arrest seemed to be a ploy of Pakistan to convey to the US that it was initiating action against terror groups. Both the LeT and the JD figure on the US's list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations.
"The possibility of the US having asked Pakistan to act against the JD cannot be ruled out, particularly in the wake of evidence on LeT's involvement in the Mumbai blasts," said an official.
He said the JD was just a front for the LeT and if Islamabad was serious about cracking down on the organisation, it should arrest its leader and freeze its bank account.
Sayeed, a former professor of Islamic Studies at the Lahore Engineering College, is considered to be close to the ISI brass and the Pakistani Army. He founded the JD in 2002 after Pakistan banned the LeT. The former is considered as a front for the Lashkar.
The Indian intelligence's sentiment is guided by history. Sources said that in May 2002 when Sayeed was arrested following a ban on the LeT, he was kept in a posh guesthouse and even had access to a satellite phone over which he supervised his operations. He was released five months later.
In the 1980s, the ISI had used him to motivate the Mujahideen against the Russians during the Afghan War through his outfit, Markaz-e-Dawat-ul-Irshad. During this time is he said to have come in contact with Osama bin Laden. Laden is suspected to have provided funds to Sayeed to float the LeT in 1987 with its headquarters in Muridke. “Sayeed has a pan-Islamic agenda and is responsible for spreading the LeT’s network in 17 countries,” the official said.
Hafeez Sayeed may be the architect of the LeT but at least the Interpol, India is unaware of him. Sayeed’s name does not feature in its list of India’s 30 most wanted terrorists and criminals.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry is preparing a detailed dossier on the Jammat to be sent to the United Nations so that the group can be put on the Security Sanctions List of the international body. The LeT is already on the UN Security Sanctions List.