Ex-Pak min held at US airport for suspected LeT links
Houston: Former Pakistani minister Sheikh Rashid, known for his pro-LeT leanings, was detained at Houston airport on arrival for his possible links with the terror group's founder Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.
61-year-old Rashid, leader of the Awami Muslim League of Pakistan, was detained soon after he arrived by an Emirates flight last evening and was freed after five hours of interrogation.
Sources said Rashid was detained for his possible links with Saeed.
It is understood that he was scheduled to attend a fundraiser and meetings with his supporters in the US.
The US Department of Homeland Security was not immediately available for any comments.
According to Pakistan's Geo News channel, the former minister was released after Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, asked the Pakistani consulate here to help him out.
Following her directives, Pakistan's Consul General in Houston, Aqil Nadeem, reached the airport to talk to the immigration authorities following which the former minister was allowed to leave the airport after five hours of interrogation, it said.
Rashid had in recent past actively attended the rallies and meetings organised by Defa-e Pakistan Council, an alliance of extremist and hardline groups formed by JuD chief Saeed.
He had accompanied Saeed to the rallies and press conferences where they both made statements against India and the US.
Rashid had served as the federal minister for railways in Pakistan from 2006 to 2008.
Talking to a Pakistani TV news channel on phone from Houston, Rashid did not go into the details of the questions he was asked by US officials but said American authorities had copied all data from his two mobile phones before letting him go.
Rashid said he was allowed to go after Sherry Rehman took up his case.
"There was no reason for my being stopped. I have a new machine readable passport with all my details. They wanted my two phones," he said.
He said it seemed as if the US authorities were upset by his statements, "especially on the blockade of NATO supply routes, (last year's) NATO air strike and the activities of the Defa-e-Pakistan Council."
However, Rashid contended that these issues did not figure in his questioning.
The American officials "seemed to be aware of my political activities and other affairs," he said.
He said he was not quizzed about his anti-US comments but "it seemed very clear that they thought I am coming to America and I also talk against America, that I often give statements against the US."
"Since I have an official passport, there was no reason for my being stopped at the airport," Rashid said, adding he was on a brief visit to Houston to participate in some functions.
He further said he had no plans to lodge an official protest about the incident.