Photo Caption: Pakistani leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Hafiz Saeed (C) leaves in a car after being detained by police in Lahore, early on Jan 31, 2017. Pakistan ordered on Monday to place Hafiz Saeed, accused by the US and India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, under house arrest. (Arif Ali / AFP)
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE – Pakistan on Monday ordered Hafiz Saeed, accused by the United States and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people, to be placed under house arrest.
The move came after years of pressure and could ease recently escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Saeed’s continued freedom has long infuriated Islamabad’s arch-foe India.
The United States has offered US$10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who heads the Muslim charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Washington says JuD is a front for the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
“A large police team arrived (at JuD headquarters) and told us that Hafiz Saeed would be placed under house arrest,” Nadeem Awan, a spokesman for the group based in the eastern city of Lahore, told Reuters.
An Interior Ministry source confirmed Saeed and the other men “are under house arrest” and on the exit control list, meaning they could not leave the country. India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It was unclear why Pakistan decided to act now. A senior Pakistani defense ministry official said Islamabad had not heard anything from the new administration of US President Donald Trump but had been feeling US pressure on the issue.
“Trump is taking hard decisions against Muslim countries, there is open talk of actions against Pakistan also. So yes, this was a consideration,” said the official.
Other government officials have said recently that a broader diplomatic campaign – pushed by India – to isolate Pakistan over its failure to go after some Islamist groups has taken a toll, even involving pressure from longtime ally China.
RAMPAGE IN MUMBAI
The Mumbai attacks in 2008 brought Pakistan and India to the brink of war after 10 gunmen killed commuters, foreigners and some of India’s wealthy elite in a rampage that included attacks on two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a train station.
India accused Pakistan of sponsoring the attack through LeT, which Saeed founded in the 1990s. Pakistan has denied any state involvement and Saeed – who has distanced himself from LeT – has said repeatedly he was not responsible.
Saeed was put under house arrest after the Mumbai attack but was released about six month later in June 2009.
The Punjab provincial government said Saeed and four other men were in “protective custody” because they violated a UN Security Council resolution passed after the Mumbai attacks.