KARACHI, Pakistan — A Pakistani who led a mass prayer ceremony for one of the London suicide bombers at his ancestral village in the Punjab has been arrested as part of President Pervez Musharraf’s anti-terrorism clampdown.
Molvi Abdul Rehman, 30, was held after he organized a ritual service in honor of Shehzad Tanweer, the 22-year-old Briton whose parents emigrated from Pakistan. Tanweer killed himself and six passengers in the July 7 mass transit bombing in London.
The ceremony, held at the Samoondran mosque in the Tanweer family’s home village of Kottan in southern Punjab, saw members of the crowd of 100 hailing Tanweer as a “hero of Islam.”
Pakistani intelligence sources said that Mr. Rehman was believed to have been seen in Tanweer’s company when he visited the village last year, about the time he is thought to have received terrorist training.
“We would like to find out from him who else did [Tanweer] interact with when he stayed in this village for several weeks,” one official said.
Details of Rehman’s arrest emerged as Gen. Musharraf announced plans to expel an estimated 1,400 foreign students from Pakistan’s Islamic schools, among them some Britons.
Announcing the new measures on Friday night, Gen. Musharraf also said that Pakistani families in Britain had a responsibility to warn their children about the dangers of extremism.
“The fault lies with the people of Pakistani origin,” he said. “Why have your children not been assimilated into the society that you have adopted for yourselves?”
Information gleaned from Mr. Rehman led to the detention of Maulana Abdul Aziz Faridi, the leader of a local seminary called Jamia Masjid Ahle-Sunnah Wal-Jammat.
Pakistani intelligence agencies believe that this may be one of the schools attended by at least one of the three bombers when they visited the country.
One intelligence source said: “We are also trying to find out if he [Tanweer] had ever discussed issues like suicide with the school head.”
Mr. Rehman and Mr. Faridi are not wanted by the government in direct connection with terror activities, but both men are said to be linked with Jaish-e-Mohammed — an outlawed militant organization known for its involvement in several suicide attacks, including two failed assassination attempts on Gen. Musharraf.
Under pressure from the international community, Pakistani authorities have arrested up to 800 persons since the July 7 London bombings suspected of involvement in Islamic militancy.
In a related development, hundreds of Muslims in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province set ablaze dozens of TV sets following a cleric’s ruling that watching television was a sin, police said yesterday.
District police Chief Muhammad Iqbal said the demonstration took place after a local mullah had said on radio that watching TV was a sin and declared a jihad or holy war against vulgarity and obscenity.
The park echoed with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) as the television sets burned, and the crowd also decried the crackdown on extremists following the London bombings.