Pakistan Shutters 11 Offices of Charity Linked to Mumbai Attacks
Friday, December 12, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 11 -- Pakistan on Thursday closed 11 offices of a controversial Islamic charity that has been linked to last month's deadly attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai and placed the group's leader under house arrest. In India, top government officials announced a massive revamping of the country's security infrastructure, including creation of an FBI-style national agency to investigate terrorist attacks.
Hafiz Sayeed, the leader of the organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was put under house arrest in Lahore, according to a Pakistani Foreign Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The arrest was confirmed by a top Jamaat-ud-Dawa official.
Sayeed was one of four individuals singled out by the U.N. Security Council late Wednesday when it placed Jamaat-ud-Dawa on a list of designated terrorist organizations and imposed sanctions on the group, including an asset freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo. The United Nations also said the charity was directly linked to Lashkar-i-Taiba, the outlawed Pakistani militant group that Indian authorities blame for the three-day siege in Mumbai that killed at least 171 people, including six Americans.
"Pakistan has taken note of the designation of certain individuals and entities by the U.N.," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said in a statement hours before the house arrest, noting that the country would "fulfill its international obligations."
Also included in the sanctions were Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged operational commander and architect of the Mumbai attacks, and alleged Lashkar financiers Muhammad Ashraf and Mahmoud Ahmed Bahaziq. Pakistani security forces arrested Lakhvi on Sunday.
Before arresting Sayeed late Thursday, Pakistan shuttered nine Karachi offices of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the group's main offices in Lahore and Muridke. Jamaat official Amir Hamza said Thursday night that 70 to 80 members of the organization were rounded up in raids that took place across the country. Hamza said Pakistani authorities had placed him and eight others on a wanted list and were preparing to arrest them.
"We are expecting to be picked up any minute," Hamza said. "We will fight our battles in court. We will not resort just to street protests. This is a great injustice."
Indian officials hailed Wednesday night's U.N. action as a long-overdue step in the right direction and called on Pakistan not to repeat a past pattern of arresting suspected extremists -- including Sayeed -- and then letting them go without standing trial.
"This only underscores what India has maintained throughout. That the forces of violence and terror, the organized groups which have attacked India on many occasions . . . pose a threat to civil world," Indian Deputy Foreign Minister Anand Sharma said.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the country's Parliament that Pakistan needed to follow up on its promises of action against militant groups. "They are banning organizations. Lashkar-i-Taiba was banned. But simply they are changing names, they are changing signboards," Mukherjee said. "Faces are the same, ideology are the same. How does it help us?"
Sayeed reacted to the imposition of sanctions with a news conference at his Lahore headquarters, hours before he was placed under house arrest. He denied reports that he had met with a Mumbai attacker and said his group had split from Lashkar after Pakistan banned Lashkar following a 2001 attack on India's Parliament. Sayeed said Jamaat-ud-Dawa would lodge a protest with the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
"Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a thorn in the eye of India because Jamaat-ud-Dawa does not support anything which India does to Pakistan or Kashmir," Sayeed said.
At a day-long session of India's Parliament that focused on the Mumbai rampage and its implications for the two nuclear-armed rivals, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said India would create a coastal command to secure 4,650 miles of shoreline, set up 20 counterterrorism police academies, raise regional commando units, strengthen anti-terrorism laws and set up a national agency to investigate suspected terrorist activity. Security experts in India have long called for such an approach.
South Asia is in "the eye of the storm of terror," Chidambaram said, adding that it was not possible for India to "go back to business as usual."
"The finger of suspicion unmistakably points to the territory of our neighbor, Pakistan. We will strain every nerve to defend our borders," Chidambaram said.
But Mukherjee denied reports that India's military was moving closer to a direct confrontation with Pakistan. "We are not provoked. We have no intention of being provoked," Mukherjee said. "We have not mobilized our armed forces, we have not suspended air links."
After he spoke, a lawmaker rose and asked, "Why don't you attack Pakistan?"
And Mukherjee answered, "I am making it clear that is no solution."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India has so far "acted with utmost restraint" but that its stance should not be misconstrued "as a sign of weakness." He said that "the idea of India as a functioning democracy and pluralistic society is at stake."
Sayeed is a former professor of Islamic studies. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in August 2006 in connection with a series of Lashkar train bombings in India, then released and placed under a two-month house arrest. Since then, Sayeed has been active in expanding Jamaat-ud-Dawa's reach across Pakistan. The group provides education and medical treatment at schools and clinics located in 66 cities across the country. Sayeed regularly gives lectures at Jamaat-ud-Dawa's mosque in Lahore.
Known best in Pakistan for its work to bring emergency aid to thousands of victims of the devastating 2005 earthquake in the north, Jamaat-ud-Dawa operates on a yearly budget of $750,000 to $1 million, which group members say is largely drawn from charitable donations from Pakistanis around the world. Jamaat-ud-Dawa's center in Muridke houses a hospital, several residential hostels, and schools attended by about 2,000 students, according to the group's members.
Lakshmi reported from New Delhi. Special correspondent Rizwan Mohammed in Lahore contributed to this report.