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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Kashmir militant leader 'missing'
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed
Saeed's wife says he was detained two months ago
Fears are growing for the safety of the founder of Kashmiri militant group, Lashkar-e-Toiba, after Pakistani authorities said he was not in their custody.


We are deeply concerned about his safety

Lawyer Nazir Ahmad Ghazi
The government made the statement to the Lahore High Court on Wednesday in a written response to a petition filed by the wife of militant Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

The habeas corpus petition states that Mr Saeed was taken into custody from his home in the northern city more than two months ago.

Mr Saeed's wife, Memona, is demanding that her husband be released or produced in court, but authorities said they were not aware of his whereabouts.

Lashkar-e-Toiba and another group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, were blamed for an attack on the parliament in Delhi last December, which led India and Pakistan to the brink of all-out war.

Shock response

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned five militant groups including Lashkar-e-Toiba early in the year in a move aimed at easing tensions with India.

Masked militants brandishing weapons
Supporters say Mr Saeed now espouses non-violence

But supporters of Mr Saeed say he resigned from Lashkar-e-Toiba days before the group was banned and that he no longer has links with any outlawed group.

Mr Saeed's lawyer, Nazir Ahmad Ghazi, said the government response had come as a shock.

He said that Punjab Religious Affairs Minister Mufti Ghulam Sarwar had issued a press statement two days ago confirming that Mr Saeed had been re-arrested.

"We are deeply concerned about his safety and will immediately move an application bringing out the contradiction in the government's stand," Mr Ghazi said.

Mr Saeed was formally detained in January under the Maintenance of Public Order law at the beginning of a crackdown on Islamic activists in Pakistan.

But he was released in March when a review board of the Lahore High Court refused to extend the 90-day period of preventive detention.

His wife says he was taken into custody again two months later.

Denial

The government's response to the petition was conveyed to the judge in two separate written statements submitted by the federal and the provincial governments.

A written reply signed by a senior official of the Interior Ministry in Islamabad said Mr Saeed had not been arrested by them.

Likewise, an official of the Punjab Home Department stated that the provincial government had not issued any orders for his detention and he was not in their custody.

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30 Jul 02 | South Asia
25 Jun 02 | South Asia
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14 Dec 01 | South Asia
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