06/03/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN – INDIA
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Islamic extremist held over Mumbai attack is released, Indo-Pakistani tensions rise

by Qaiser Felix
Lahore High Court’s decision to release Hafiz Saeed, founder of Islamist extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, leads to diplomatic crisis between India and Pakistan. Pakistan cites lack of evidence against him to justify release, claiming controversy is misplaced. India blames Pakistan for “lack of seriousness” in the fight against terrorism.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Indian government voiced its unhappiness yesterday over the decision by the Lahore High Court to release Hafiz Saeed, leader of Jaamat-ud Dawa, a group suspected of involvement in the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attack. For India the ruling is a sign that Pakistan is not serious about the fight against terrorism, a key factor in renewing talks between the two countries.

In December of last year Pakistan’s Interior Ministry ordered the arrest of six Jaamat-ud Dawa members, including its leader Hafiz Saeed, on charges of participation in the Mumbai attack. However, this week the Lahore High Court ordered Saeed’s release arguing that the state had insufficient grounds to detain him. 

Indian authorities reacted immediately, saying that the decision showed a “lack of seriousness” on the part of Pakistan in tackling terrorism.

Indian Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram said the ruling ruined the chances of an early resumption of dialogue with Islamabad, and is “a commentary on the commitment of Pakistan to investigate the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack”.

In its response Pakistan told India to refrain from commenting on court decisions and questioning its sincerity about action against terrorist groups.

Polemics and unfounded insinuations cannot advance the cause of justice,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said about Indian criticism of Saeed’s release.

Basit dismissed Indian concerns as “misplaced”, stressing that due process must follow its course. He also added that Indian authorities have yet to provide an English translation of the information material about the Mumbai attack which they handed over to Pakistan on 20 May in Hindi and Marathi languages.

The Indian government blamed Islamist groups in Pakistan for the attack on 26 November 2008 that killed 166 people; Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group founded in 1985 by Hafiz Saeed, is at the top of its list of suspects.

The same group is blamed for a series of attacks in India, including the attack against the Indian parliament in Delhi in 2001, as well as a number of attacks in Indian cities between 2003 and 2005.

In 2002 Pakistani President Musharraf outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba but failed to stop its terrorist activities.

The Jaamat-ud-Dawa is Lashkar-e-Taiba’s political and “charity” wing, and was also banned in 2008 following the Mumbai attack and Saeed’s arrest.

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