Islamabad: Pakistani police plan to arrest an Islamist militant leader accused by India of masterminding last year’s Mumbai attack, a move likely to help ease fraught relations with New Delhi.
Police said Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, would be arrested for propagating jihad, and collecting funds for a charity he heads.
India has been demanding action against Saeed and other Pakistan-based militants before it will resume a formal peace process, broken off by New Delhi after the Mumbai attack.
Police in the city of Faisalabad lodged two complaints against Saeed this week for delivering a speech to his supporters last month in which he urged jihad, or holy war, and appealed for funds for his Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity.
“We hope to arrest him soon,” Hafiz Mohammad Irfan, a senior police official in Faisalabad, told Reuters.
The police complaints came ahead of a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers and the nuclear-armed rivals’ top diplomats in New York this month.
Speaking in London, President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan was seeking a cooperative relationship with India and reiterated Pakistan’s call for a resumption of formal peace talks.
He declined to go into details on Saeed, but said the action against him showed “our determination to prosecute anyone who is inclined towards an aggressive mindset.”
Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told an Indian news channel that even if Saeed were arrested on another charge, it would represent “significant progress” if Pakistan used this as an opportunity to questioned him about the Mumbai attack.
Foreign ministers to meet
Pakistan has acknowledged the Mumbai attack was partly plotted and planned from its soil, begun the trial of five suspects, and arrested two more. But it has said evidence given by India about Saeed was insufficient and not tenable in court.
Saeed was detained in December, after a UN Security Council resolution put him and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity led by him on a list of people and groups supporting Al Qaeda.
But in June, a court released him citing lack of evidence, prompting the Pakistani government to launch an appeal in the supreme court for his re-arrest. That case is pending.
A spokesman for Saeed said on Friday authorities were acting under pressure from India.
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, are due to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on 26 September.
Their meeting will be preceded by talks between their foreign secretaries, or top diplomats, but Qureshi said this week he did not expect any breakthrough.
The two countries have held three bilateral meetings since June.
Zardari said it was essential both countries made “meaningful progress” to resolve the Kashmir dispute in the interests of regional peace.