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Pakistan Cracks Down on Charity Group Implicated in Mumbai Attacks


Pakistan is continuing to freeze assets and close down offices of a prominent Islamic charity accused of links with the Mumbai terrorist plot. During the carefully-orchestrated crackdown, Pakistani authorities insist India is still not sharing any evidence.

Pakistani authorities began shutting down offices and freezing assets of the Jamaat ud Dawa group on Thursday, but in a sign of the government's concern over reaction to the crackdown, officials did not formally announce the ban until several hours before dawn Friday in a live address on state television.

In a brief statement, Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan has complied with the requests by the U.N. sanctions committee to take action against certain groups.

"However, our own investigations cannot proceed beyond a certain point without provision of credible information and evidence pertaining to Mumbai attacks," he said. "Despite our requests, no evidence or information has been shared with the government by India so far."

With offices in all major Pakistani cities and thousands of supporters, volunteers and students in Jamaat ud Dawa schools, Pakistani politicians have been careful in moving against the group.

Pakistani authorities placed Jamaat ud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed under house arrest late Thursday, after allowing him to give a live televised news conference in which he rejected allegations his group is a front for the Lashkar e Taiba militant group blamed in the Mumbai attacks. Since then, at least 10 other leaders of the charity have been placed under house arrest.

Local television on Friday broadcast images of police locking offices of the charity across the country. The interior ministry says more than 60 offices have been closed so far.

In the northeastern city Muzzafarabad in Pakistani Kashmir, about 500 people demonstrated in front of a United Nations compound denouncing the ban on Jamaat ud Dawa.

They group chanted down with India, down with Hindus.

Later, Pakistan's Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar was asked by reporters why Jamaat ud Dawa has been banned when Pakistani officials themselves insist India has offered no evidence of its involvement in the Mumbai plot.

He said if Pakistan did not react to the Security Council resolution then the United Nations would declare the country a terrorist state and cripple the economy. He said Pakistan can fight its own enemies but not the whole world.

Indian officials have responded to Pakistan's actions by saying the country must do much more against militant groups. India's prime minister Thursday called Pakistan "the epicenter of terrorism" and said the international community must deal with the problem.

Top U.S. officials have been shuttling between the two countries to try to defuse tensions. In just the past week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen have visited both Islamabad and New Delhi.

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