Move rejected as “worthless propaganda” by self-described charity seen as front organisation for banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Pakistani police have placed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the alleged mastermind of coordinated attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people, under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore.
Saeed was taken into custody at the headquarters for Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the religious charity he heads, late on Monday, a spokesman said.
“He has been arrested, and he is being taken in police custody to his home,” Nadeem Awan told Al Jazeera.
Awan added that dozens of JuD supporters were accompanying the police convoy to Saeed’s home.
“We have received the detention orders from the government of Pakistan, and I believe that this is not aimed at me, but is an international conspiracy aimed at sabotaging the Kashmir struggle,” Saeed told reporters, referring to the disputed Indian-controlled territory of Kashmir, before he was escorted by police to his residence.
“This is the wish of [Indian PM Narendra] Modi, at the prompting of [US President Donald] Trump, and the government’s helplessness.”
The two countries have fought three wars over Kashmir, which both claim in full but control in parts.
In 2012, the United States placed a $10m bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who is also the founder of the armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Saeed has long since distanced himself from LeT, which has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Indian security forces and civilians, saying he now only runs JuD as a charity.
The United Nations and the United States, however, list JuD as a front for LeT. Both organisations, as well as Saeed as an individual, remain under international sanctions.
Saeed has been accused by both the US and India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people in attacks across India’s largest city.
LeT has been banned as a “terrorist” organisation by Pakistan since 2002. In 2008, JuD was listed by Pakistan under a list of organisations subject to UN sanctions, including an assets freeze, arms embargo and international travel ban.
The group continues to work openly across Pakistan, however, running a network of seminaries, releasing several publications and carrying out widespread humanitarian aid work.
“We have never broken any laws of this country. If they have a legal order, then we will follow the law, and the doors of the court are available to us to seek justice,” said Awan, shortly before Saeed’s detention.
Four other men – Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz – are also to be held under the government’s detention orders, local media reported, citing copies and footage of the detention orders.
The men are being detained under Section 11-EEE of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which gives the government the power to arrest or detain “terrorism” suspects for up to 12 months.