India: LeT Founder’s House Arrest ‘Not Enough,’ Mumbai ’08 Attack Victims Say

Prabhat Sharan
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170202-saeed-1000.jpg Pakistani police stand guard outside the home of Hafiz Saeed after he was placed under house arrest by authorities in Lahore, Jan. 31, 2017.

Mumbai resident Tarun Sethi is unmoved by news of Pakistan’s decision to place the suspected mastermind of a terror attack that rocked India’s financial capital in 2008 under house arrest.

Pakistani authorities arrested Hafiz Saeed, co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), and four others on Monday.

They described the move as a “policy decision in the national interest.”

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry added the names of Saeed and 37 members of his group to its Exit Control List (ECL), which effectively means they cannot leave the country, according to Pakistani media.

“What house arrest? How many times has he [Saeed] been detained? It upsets me that this man is still not behind bars while we have to live with the trauma of the terror he unleashed in Mumbai,” Sethi told BenarNews.

“House arrest is not enough. It is not a fitting punishment,” he added.

Globally designated terrorist

Sethi, 35, survived the Nov. 26, 2008, shootout at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai’s main railway station, where he had gone to see off a cousin. The station was one of the locations targeted by suspected LeT members during the deadly three-day siege that killed 166 people. About 60 were killed at the station.

This is the fifth time since the Mumbai attack that Pakistani authorities have detained Saeed. The U.S. government labeled him a globally designated terrorist in 2012, putting a bounty of $10 million on his head.

India’s foreign ministry reacted to Saeed’s detention in Pakistan, its arch rival, with skepticism.

“Pakistan needs to do more to tackle terrorism. Only a credible crackdown on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organizations involved in cross-border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs.

Pakistan blames India

India should look at its own involvement in pushing militancy into Pakistan before pointing fingers, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakari said at a weekly press briefing Thursday.

“India itself has been involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan,” he said, according to the Press Trust of India.

Saeed has said he would appeal.

“My detention orders are unlawful and I will challenge them in court,” he told reporters as he was being led away by police on Monday, adding that his detention orders came from “Delhi via Washington.”

Outside pressure

To some degree, analysts agree with Saeed’s claim.

“The move [to detain Saeed] has nothing to do with pressure from India. It smacks of pressure emanating from outside India. One should remember several U.S. citizens and Israelis were killed in the 2008 attack,” former Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officer Prakash George told BenarNews.

With newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump slapping an immigration ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, Pakistan – which is not on the list – is trying to play safe by detaining terror suspects operating from its soil, according to Mridul Nile, an international relations professor at Mumbai University.

“In the next few months, you will see several hard-line fundamentalists being house arrested in Pakistan. This is more of a smokescreen and nothing else,” Nile told BenarNews.

But peace activists were more optimistic.

“The increased pressure from the U.S. has no doubt prompted this [Saeed’s detention]. But then, look at the prevailing conditions in Pakistan; it is in bad shape financially, it is roiling with ethno-centric movements, battling its own war on several fronts. Going by its recent actions, there is an indication that it wants to improve strained ties,” Jatin Desai, with the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, told BenarNews.

For Priyanshi Shekhawat, 24, whose father and sister narrowly escaped death when two gunmen opened fire inside a popular café in south Mumbai, Pakistan’s claim of detaining Saeed is “hogwash.”

“Nine years down, and placed under house arrest! Tell me, why isn’t he already being tried for crimes against humanity?” Shekhawat told BenarNews.


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