Nirupama Subramanian

If LeT commander has been arrested, it will be “an important first step” by Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: India wants the Pakistan government not just to act against one office of the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawah, but to “shut down” the entire operations of the group and also to act against other similar groups, Indian officials here said.

A key commander of the LeT, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, is said to have been arrested in the operation near the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad.

The arrest is not confirmed but Indian officials here said that if Lakhvi, suspected by investigators to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks, had indeed been arrested, it would be “an important first step” by Pakistan.

“What we want is that the entire operation of the LeT and other militant groups that exist here and carry out actions against India should be shut down,” said a senior Indian diplomat here.

The raid on the JuD “markaz” in Shawai, 5 km from Muzaffarabad, began on Sunday afternoon. Security forces are said to have sealed off the centre, which includes a madrassa and a mosque alongside offices of the JuD.

Quoting local residents, the Dawn said explosions were heard during the raid that began on Sunday afternoon, and a military helicopter was seen hovering over the area.

Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said the operation was “ongoing.” Sidestepping a question on whether the security forces would to go after other LeT/JuD offices, he said the operation was “at the moment confined to Muzaffarabad.”

The entire operation was kept under wraps for more than 24 hours, perhaps due to concerns about domestic political reaction.

But the only criticism of the raid came from the two main religious political parties, while the main Opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was quiet.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami hit out at the government for acting under “external pressure.”

He said the existence of the LeT/JuD was known all along. “If we had done it under our initiative, it was one thing, but this has been done under external pressure. Whatever is happening is happening under pressure. We need to consider our own country’s interests,” Mr. Rehman said.

Qazi Hussein Ahmed, leader of the hardline Jamat-e-Islami, was also criticial of the government for coming under pressure from India and the US.

“It is a sign of the government’s weakness,” he said.

In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, India had demanded action against Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jud/LeT, and also asked Pakistan to hand over two Indian nationals — Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon — alleged by New Delhi to be living in Pakistan, and one Pakistani, Maulana Masood Azhar, leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Pakistan has not yet responded to this demand directly.

The Cabinet Defence Committee said after a meeting on Monday that “Pakistan is a responsible, democratic state that is fully committed to safeguarding its national interests and fulfilling its international obligations.”

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