ISLAMABAD: Marking a huge shift from its known stance, Pakistan's military said on Tuesday that the house arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)+ accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, was a policy decision in national interest.
The rare army statement signifies that the Pakistan government and the military are on the same page regarding the strategy to be adopted towards militant and terror outfits that for years were used by the military establishment as proxy forces against India+ . "This is a policy decision that the state took in national interest. The decision to place Hafiz Saeed under house arrest was taken collectively by all state institutions," said Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations, the Army's media arm.
Interestingly, while Maj Gen Ghafoor denied that Saeed was arrested due to any foreign pressure, the Jamat-ud-Dawa chief himself said, "My detention order has come from Washington and not Islamabad." Ghafoor added, "I'd be able to elaborate on the matter as time passes," indicating there was no plan to relax restrictions on Saeed any time soon.
Saeed had been roaming free despite spewing venom against India for years. Saeed's supporters said US President Donald Trump was leaning on Islamabad to please the "ruling right-wing BJP government in India". Pakistan has also placed four of Hafiz Saeed's associates under house arrest. A home ministry release marked "most urgent" said Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (Lahore), Abdullah Ubaid (Faisalabad), Zafar Iqbal (Markaz Tayyaba Muridke), Abdul Rehman Abid (Markaz Tayyaba Muridke) and Qazi Kashif Niazi of Multan, who handles JuD's publications, are all under preventive detention.
Nadeem Awan, JuD's information secretary, vowed to challenge Saeed's detention in court. However, another leading paper, The News, reported on Monday that US officials had, in the last days of the Obama administration, threatened sanctions or other penalties against Pakistan if action was not taken against Saeed, JuD and the charities he heads+ .
Some observers even said Islamabad had not been contacted by the new US administration on the issue but the decisions that Trump took against Muslim countries pushed Pakistan to act against Saeed. Government sources said China too was convincing Pakistan to corner the terror organisations, including Jaish-e-Muhammad and JuD, despite blocking India's request to blacklist JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar for links to al Qaeda.
This is not the first time Saeed has been put under house arrest+ --he was in preventive custody for months during the Musharraf regime in 2002 after an attack on Indian Parliament. He was placed under detention twice after the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
The Lahore high court had ordered his release in June 2009 after the government failed to establish a case against him. But never before had the army declared his detention as "official policy in national interest".
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