Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and four aides were placed in house arrest by Pakistani authorities ahead of a financial task force’s deadline that would have had implications on the country’s financial sector if it was ignored.
The Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), the group led by Saeed, and its front organisation, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) were included in the interior ministry’s “watch list” but they were not banned, according to orders issued to the Punjab home department.
“A large police team arrived (at the JuD headquarters in Chowburji area of Lahore) on Monday night and told us that Hafiz Saeed would be placed under house arrest,” Nadeem Awan, the JuD’s information secretary, said in a statement.
Awan said police told them they had an arrest warrant for Saeed and four others. The others detained with the JuD chief are Abdullah Ubaid, Kashif Niaz, who is responsible for the JuD’s publications, and Zafar Iqbal and Abdur Rehman Abid, both from the group’s main base at Muridke on the outskirts of Lahore.
Media reports said the government decided to put JuD and FIF on the watch list and approved the freezing of their assets and cancelling passports and arms licenses of their leaders to comply with the conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Pakistan is bound to take these actions under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Pakistan is set to submit its compliance report on implementing money laundering laws to FATF on Tuesday, a pre-requisite for ensuring the country remains in the FATF’s “white list”, The News daily reported.
In case of non-compliance, Pakistan could have slipped into the FATF’s negative list for failing to counter terrorism financing.
Saeed, who was present at the JuD centre at Jamia Masjid al-Qadsia at Chowburji on Monday, was quick to blame pressure from India and Pakistan for the action against him. He claimed India was also angered by his support for the Kashmir issue.
“We declared 2017 the year of Kashmir and I held a press conference with Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir in Islamabad. India made a lot of noise about that and I was expecting there will be some pressure,” he told the media before he was detained.
“I say with regret that this order for my house arrest has not come from Islamabad – this order has come here from Delhi and Washington.”
He added, “Our crime is that we are standing for Kashmir…Just as the Kashmiris are in the field, Pakistan must stand with Kashmir.”
Contingents of police and other law enforcing agencies surrounded the mosque at Chowburji. Saeed will be shifted to his residence in Johar Town, which will be declared a sub-jail.
Pakistani national flags were hoisted at JuD offices in Lahore, instead of the group’s black-and-white flags, on the directives of the Punjab home department and police started removing the banners of JuD from the roads of the city. However, JuD offices in other cities were not affected by the latest developments.
The move came hours after interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that his government had to fulfill its international obligations regarding groups such as JuD. He said the JuD was under the observation of the UN Security Council since 2010.
Officials have said consultations are being held on whether the JuD should be banned. A final decision will be taken after consultations between the civilian and military authorities, media reports said.
Observers said the move followed US pressure on the Nawaz Sharif government to act against terrorists. “There is mounting pressure on fears that America may take punitive action against Pakistan for its stance on organisations like the JuD,” said analyst Hasan Askari Zaidi.
JuD activists held demonstrations in Islamabad and Lahore to protest against a possible ban. Spokesman Yahya Mujahid said the JuD is consulting its legal team to challenge the government’s decision.
This is not the first time Saeed has been placed under house arrest. Soon after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Pakistani authorities cracked down on the JuD and detained Saeed. Within six months, he was freed on the orders of the orders of the Lahore high court.