Pakistan bans Saeed from travelling, protests escalate

Islamabad: Two days after Pakistan placed UN sanctioned militant leader, Hafiz Saeed, under house arrest in Lahore, the Interior Ministry on Wednesday banned the JuD chief from travelling out of the country.

The ministry has forwarded a letter to all provincial governments and the Federal Investigation Agency, which included Saeed among 38 others placed on the Exit Control List.

All of them were said to be affiliated with the Jamaat-ud-Dawah or Lashkar-e-Taiba, which he is said to have founded.

On Monday, authorities had placed Saeed under house arrest along with four other individuals, namely Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz, in Lahore.

On Wednesday, pro-JuD protests escalated demanding the release of Saeed.

Hizb-ul Mujhadeen chief Syed Salahuddin also called upon Islamabad to reverse its detention order, which he termed “painful and cowardly”.

Salahuddin, chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC), said in a statement: “Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has not only been urging the international community to break its criminal silence on Kashmir, but he has also been exposing the atrocities of India’s imperialistic regime.”

Demonstrators in Lahore also held an effigy, on which portraits of US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and flags of the US and India were affixed. The effigy and a banner with portraits of the duo and flags of both countries were torched afterwards.

Protesters also carried banners and placards, inscribed with slogans in favour of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief.

“House arrest of Hafiz Saeed to please India is unacceptable,” read a big banner.

The JuD leaders also warned the government of launch of a protest movement if Saeed was not released immediately.

They said the responsibility would lie with the Nawaz Sharif government if the Kashmir movement suffered any disruption or weakness as result of Saeed’s arrest. The protesters promised to take out a nationwide rally on February 5 on the instruction of Hafiz Saeed.

On Tuesday, Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor stated that putting restrictions on the JuD chief was a policy decision.

“This was a policy decision taken by the state in the national interest and several institutions will have to play their role. This news came yesterday and in the coming days more details will be available,” he said.

Ghafoor emphasised that there was no foreign pressure behind the decision and it was taken in national interest.

The move came after years of pressure on Pakistan from neighbour India, the US and the UN to put the Jamaat-ud-Dawah leader on trial. New Delhi, which blames Saeed for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has voiced scepticism, and demanded a “credible crack down on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organizations involved in cross border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity”.

In 2012, the US placed a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed.

Though the LeT has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Indian security forces and civilians, Saeed has distanced himself from the group, and maintains he only runs the JuD as a charity. He has also denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The United Nations and the United States have listed the JuD as a front for the LeT.

Both organisations, as well as Saeed as an individual, are under international sanctions.

His being allowed to roam free in Pakistan has been a source of continuing friction between New Delhi and Islamabad, and also pointed out by the US.