ISLAMABAD Pakistan moved Thursday to shut down the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) charity, widely viewed as a front for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT), a group which India blames for the Mumbai attacks, AFP reported.
According to police, several JuD leaders have been placed under house arrest and the organizations offices across the country are being shut down.
Police began closing the offices of Jamaatud Dawa on orders issued by the central government after the UN Security Council on Wednesday declared the charity a terrorist group.
'We have arrested four Jamaat-ud-Dawa members and put their leader under house arrest,' Chaudhry Imtiaz, deputy commissioner of the state capital Muzaffarabad, told AFP.
'We have also sealed an office, a motor workshop and two schools belonging to the charity,' he said.
Authorities have arrested more than 40 people in Sindh and sealed more than 30 offices and four hospitals belonging to charity, provincial home secretary Arif Ahmed Khan said.
'Instructions have been issued to seal Jamatud Dawa offices in all the four provinces as well as Azad Kashmir,' said interior ministry spokesman Shahidullah Baig, referring to Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the charity, who also founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is one of nine Jamatud Dawa members to be placed under house arrest.
'The order has been issued to place Hafiz Saeed and eight other leaders of the group under house arrest,' a central government official told AFP. A senior police official also confirmed the order.
The assets of the charity and of the nine leaders will be frozen, the senior government official said, and their names will also be placed on the exit control list to prevent them from leaving the country.
Action was also taken against the JuD in Rawalpindi, police said. Nazir Ahmad, director public relations of JuD and a retired colonel, was placed under house arrest. The organization's office in the city was also sealed, although no arrests were made during the raid.
A spokesman for the charity in NWFP told AFP that authorities there had arrested 150 people linked to the organisation and closed 42 offices in recent days.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa is one of Pakistan's biggest charities and is known in Kashmir for its relief work after the devastating 2005 earthquake there.
Hundreds of Kashmiris rallied outside the UN office in Muzaffarabad Friday, chanting anti-US and anti-Indian slogans to protest against the closure.
But it is also widely viewed as the political wing of LeT, the Kashmiri militant group outlawed in Pakistan after India accused it of mounting an attack on its parliament in New Delhi in 2001.
That view was confirmed by the decision Wednesday of the UN Security Council to list Jamaatud Dawa as one of a number of covers used by LeT, and categorise it as a terrorist organisation.
On Sunday, troops raided a camp operated by the charity in Kashmir and arrested 15 people, kicking off a military crackdown on militants in the country launched under intense international pressure.
The head of the group in Azad Kashmir, where Sunday's raid took place, said Wednesday the targeted camp housed a religious school and denied allegations it was also used as a terrorist training camp.
Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Azad Kashmir, Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, condemned the move.
'We regret it, we condemn what our government is doing under American pressure,' Alvi said.
'Our work, Inshallah (God willing) shall continue and will not be affected by these tactics.'
'Training camps are not located within the city limits,' Abdul Aziz Alvi told journalists in the state capital Muzaffarabad, near the site of the camp. 'Those arrested were teachers.'