LAHORE, Pakistan – The leader of a banned Islamist group that India has accused of carrying out attacks on its financial capital late last year was placed under house arrest again Monday.
Pakistani police prevented Hafiz Muhammad Saeed from leaving his home for Eid-al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Saeed is a founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba — the militant group New Delhi claims masterminded the commando-style assault that killed 166 people in Mumbai last November.
"We have verbal orders from the government to restrict his movement," police official Sohail Sukhera told The Associated Press by phone. "We have asked him not to leave his house."
Sukhera would not specify why Saeed was being confined to his home in the eastern city of Lahore, or say for how long.
India blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai assault staged by 10 gunmen, nine of whom were killed. Under tremendous international pressure, Pakistan acknowledged much of the plot originated on its soil.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a press conference Saturday that Saeed was under investigation.
"We arrest the accused only if we have evidence. I assure you, and I assure my Indian counterpart, that if there is evidence against (Saeed) during our investigation ... he will not get out of the clutches of law," Malik said.
Yahya Mujhaid, a spokesman for Saeed, condemned the government action and termed it illegal and unconstitutional.
"This is in violation of basic human rights enshrined in the constitution," Mujahid told Associated Press. "We have not received any written order yet but we are planning to challenge this in the court of law."
At least seven other suspects in the Mumbai attacks have been in closed-door pretrial hearings at a court in a maximum security prison in Rawalpindi, near the capital of Islamabad. So far no charges have been filed against them.
Pakistan arrested Saeed in December after India provided a dossier on him in a rare sharing of intelligence. But in June, a Pakistani court freed Saeed from house arrest saying there was not enough evidence to hold him.
Pakistani police said Friday they planned to arrest Saeed on charges that he illegally held a public gathering and raised funds for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged charity he now operates. Jamaat-ud-Dawa was banned by Pakistan after the U.N. declared it a front for Lashkar.
Lashkar is widely believed to have enjoyed the support of people in Pakistan's security agencies in the 1980s and 1990s because it sent militants to fight Indian rule in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Kashmir is divided by the two countries but both claim it in its entirety. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947, two over control of Kashmir.
Officials from Pakistan and India will meet Saturday and Sunday in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told the Associated Press of Pakistan he will hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Nirupama Rao.
"All the issues between the two countries, including terrorism and the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, will be discussed in these meetings," Bashir said, adding he hoped they would help restart the peace process — stalled since the Mumbai attacks — between the nuclear-armed arch rivals.