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31 Jan 2017

Trump around, Pak stirs - Islamabad replays Saeed house arrest on a day India sticks to silence on US ban; Canada bleeds

Tens of thousands of people protested in London and other British cities on Monday against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Holding placards reading “No to Racism, No to Trump”, “Dump Trump” and “I stand with Muslims”, many joined a protest outside the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited Trump in Washington on Friday. Around 1.3 million people have signed a petition calling for Trump’s planned British visit to be cancelled. (Reuters)
Reuters and Charu Sudan Kasturi , TT, Jan. 30: Pakistan today ordered the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, accused by India and the US of masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.Nadeem Awan, a spokesman for Saeed's group based in Lahore, said Islamabad had been under pressure from the US to take action against Saeed or face sanctions. "This government has buckled under the pressure," he said.
A senior Pakistani defence ministry official said Islamabad had not heard anything from the new administration of President Donald Trump but had been feeling US pressure on the issue. "Trump is taking hard decisions against Muslim countries, there is open talk of actions against Pakistan also. So yes, this was a consideration," said the official.
Pakistan, some of whose citizens have carried out attacks in the US, ducked Trump's ban list. Although Trump had a chummy phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shortly after the election in November, Pakistanis are nervously waiting to see if Trump will pull American troops from Afghanistan.
"There's a lot of concern," said Zahid Hussain, a political analyst in Islamabad. "For now, they want to keep quiet and see how things go."
India, too, has so far been reluctant to speak out against Trump's executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the US.
Saeed heads the "charity" Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which Washington says is a front for the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Hafiz Saeed
"A large police team arrived (at JuD headquarters) and told us that Hafiz Saeed would be placed under house arrest," Awan said.
A Pakistan interior ministry source confirmed Saeed and the other men "are under house arrest" and on the exit control list, meaning they could not leave the country.
Saeed was put under house arrest after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 but was released about six months later in June 2009.
The Punjab provincial government said Saeed and four other men were in "protective custody" because they violated a UN Security Council resolution passed after the Mumbai attacks.
One interior ministry document said the government believed that a charity wing of the JuD was "acting in a manner that may be concerned in terrorism".
Delhi stand
India has picked silence at a time many of the world's other leading democracies have criticised Trump's immigration ban. The US order does not directly impact India, which is not one of the seven countries whose citizens stand barred from entering a nation built by immigrants for the next 90 days.
India's silence is in keeping with its traditional practice of not commenting on global crises that do not directly impact its interests, senior officials emphasised to The Telegraph today. New Delhi was silent, for instance, on the refugee crisis in Europe last year.
In response to a question, foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said he did not wish to comment on Trump's ban.
The decision to avoid any public comments comes at a time India's strategic establishment is itself unclear about the impact of the US President's policies on key aspects of bilateral relations.
Silence on the entry ban may avoid bad blood for New Delhi with the new US administration when it comes to tackling India's own concerns, such as possible curbs on foreign work visas and outsourcing, officials said.
But the silence stood out at a time Britain, France and Germany have each said the ban went against democratic values and fundamental human rights that Indian foreign policy too has in the past stood up for.
"I know the current thinking is that realpolitik is everything," former foreign secretary Shyam Saran today said at a book discussion unrelated to Trump's entry ban and on the tussle between ethics and realpolitik in foreign policy. "But your foreign policy must have some ethical moorings in my view."
Unlike Britain, France and Germany - which do offer dual citizenship - India does not legally allow those holding its passport to also hold a passport of another nation, so it is not immediately impacted by the restrictions for the seven countries picked by the Trump administration.
India is not alone in keeping quiet. Neither Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, nor Egypt, whose capital Cairo is a traditional seat of Islamic scholarship, has spoken out against Trump's order.
Additional reporting from New York Times News Service

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