Pakistan arrests suspected 26/11 mastermind


LAHORE: Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, alleged mastermind of the recent attack on Mumbai, has reportedly been arrested in an army raid on the offices of the Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Pakistani authorities, however, are yet to confirm the arrest and unlikely to hand him over to New Delhi.

The operation, launched early on Monday, was completed by morning with security forces taking control of the Jamaat’s Muzaffarabad office, which also houses a seminary. The Washington Post had reported on Saturday that Pakistan had agreed to a 48-hour deadline to formulate an action plan against the LeT and arrest at least three Pakistanis allegedly involved in the attacks. The Jamaatul Daawa, headed by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Lakhvi is a founding member of the LeT and chief operations commander of the outfit in Jammu and Kashmir. Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, the terrorist captured in the Mumbai siege, has named Lakhvi as his trainer as well as the plotter of the carnage. Pakistani authorities are reluctant to confirm the arrest, perhaps fearing that it could lend credence to India’s assertion that the attacks were planned in Pakistan. Pakistan and India do not have an extradition treaty. President Asif Ali Zardari has already indicated that anyone arrested in Pakistan in connection with the attacks would be tried in Pakistan.

There were also reports that Pakistani troops had taken control of Jamaat offices in Shawai Nullah, 5km northwest of Muzaffarabad. An interior ministry official said on the condition of anonymity that the raids had more to do with American pressure than Indian allegations. He ruled out the possibility of Saeed’s arrest as demanded by India. However, he ruled out the possibility of the Lashkar founder Saeed’s arrest. The official said through its May 27, 2008 Treasury Department notification, the Bush administration had already imposed financial sanctions against Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi for his alleged links to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda network. Lakhvi is alleged to have directed several deadly LeT military operations in Jammu & Kashmir, India, Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq, and Southeast Asia. The US sanctions against him were actually motivated by the fact that he sent operatives and funds to attack US forces in Iraq in 2004. Lakhvi alias Chachajee was further accused of directing an LeT operative to travel to Iraq in 2003 to assess the jehad situation there. In past years, Lakhvi has reportedly played an important role in LeT fundraising activities.

On the other hand, Prof Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has condemned the Pakistani security forces’ raid on the Muzafafrabad offices of the JuD, saying the Pakistani rulers have finally bowed to Indian government which has apparently decided to use the Mumbai attacks as an excuse to crush the ongoing freedom movement in Jammu & Kashmir. Talking to Geo News from an undisclosed location on telephone, Saeed said the operation was carried out under Indian pressure which was simply unwarranted. Refuting impression that the operation was simply an eye wash to satisfy the Bush administration, Hafiz Saeed said: “The government decision to target the JuD without any proof of its involvement in any terrorist activity inside Pakistan or in any neighbouring state was a clear expression of government’s weakness which should look after the interests of Pakistani instead of protecting those of India”. He reminded the Pakistani President Asif Zardari that he is the President of Pakistan and should not come under Indian pressure to crush the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

The angry JuD chief said that India was indulging in politics of accusations and blaming Pakistan in order to hide its internal problems. “By leveling baseless allegations against Pakistan, India is unsuccessfully trying to counter several separatist movements in a number of Indian states as reaction to the excesses of Hindu Brahmins, especially the denial of peaceful co-existence to the Muslims”. Yet, he said, no power in the world cares what atrocities were committed against Muslims. “Where was the American secretary of state when Babari Masjid was destroyed and when thousands of innocent Muslims were slaughtered in the Indian state of Gujrat,” he said.

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