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Jamaat-ud-Dawa to take legal route to overturn ban.

In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Hafiz Saeed, chief of Pakistani religious group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, addresses a rally in Lahore, Pakistan.

LAHORE: A spokesman for the charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which has been linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group behind the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it would go to court on Wednesday after a government crackdown closed several of its missions.

On Tuesday, Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) added the JuD and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) to its list of banned organizations.

Both groups are linked to LeT founder Hafiz Saeed -- one of South Asia's most wanted men, with a $10 million bounty on his head. Saeed has always maintained the JuD and FIF are just charities, and not fronts for militant activity.

"We are a peaceful welfare organization," JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said. "Despite all the atrocities, we will stay peaceful and get justice from the courts." He added the government had closed JuD offices, pharmacies, health units and schools, impounded ambulances and arrested dozens of activists across the country. "It is an injustice to a peaceful organization. Police are even harassing women during raids at our homes."

At Al-Qadsia, the JuD's Lahore headquarters, which Arab News visited on Wednesday, little seemed to have changed other than a few policemen standing outside the complex.

But a spokesman for the local government in Punjab, Shahbaz Gill, confirmed that police and other security agencies had launched crackdowns against groups including the JuD across the country. In Rawalpindi, a hospital, religious school and two JuD pharmacies were sealed, and several religious seminaries linked to the group were closed in Chakwal.

An intelligence official said police had also arrested dozens of members of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the sectarian militant group Sipah-i-Sahaba in the cities of Jhang, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur in the south of Punjab.

Last month, JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed at least 40 police and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

On Tuesday, Pakistan said it had detained two close relatives of JeM chief Masood Azhar. A day earlier, Islamabad announced it had taken fresh steps to seize and freeze the assets of people wanted by the UN and others.

Last year, the global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), put Pakistan on a watch list of nations with inadequate controls to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering, handicapping chances of attracting Western investment.

Last week, New Delhi and Islamabad came to blows after the former said it attacked a JeM training camp in northern Pakistan, who retaliated by downing an Indian jet that entered its airspace last Wednesday, capturing its pilot.

"Pakistan is taking action against militant groups, under pressure from the FATF and the UN," political analyst Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi said. "The crackdown looks serious this time but let's see how long the government sustains it."

Islamabad has admitted to launching crackdowns against militant groups but denied it was due to international pressure.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 6, 2019
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