Islamabad’s decision to place Hafiz Saeed under house arrest is “painful and cowardly”, a top Kashmiri militant commander said Wednesday, amid a series of protests in Muzaffarabad against the detention.

Syed Salahuddin, chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC), asked the federal government to release Saeed from house arrest, saying the move showed "Pakistan's weak role in the ongoing Kashmir freedom struggle".

Saeed under house arrest

Hafiz Saeed, the alleged architect of 2008 Mumbai attacks, was held late on Monday at the headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) before being placed under house arrest at his home in Lahore.

In recent months, the JuD chief has been holding regular news conferences to denounce a security crackdown in Indian-held Kashmir.

"If they believe that they can throw the Kashmir issue into the background through our arrests and our confinement, that is not possible," Saeed said as he was being led away by police.

Arch-rival India was skeptical that Pakistan would bring Saeed to justice, pointing out that he had been detained before and released.

"Only a credible crack down on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organizations involved in cross border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan's sincerity," said a statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Small protests

Supporters of Hafiz Saeed staged small protests on Tuesday and condemned the United States. About 500 protesters shouted similar slogans outside the provincial assembly in Lahore.

"Release Hafiz Saeed! ... Anyone who is a friend of the US is a traitor!" chanted about 150 members of Saeed's JuD in Karachi.

Demonstrations also were held in Islamabad, according to the JuD, which the United States says is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group blamed for the Mumbai attack.

Saeed founded LeT in the 1990s but later distanced himself from it.

US pressure, Chinese persuasion

Saeed accused the government of bowing to pressure from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the United States.

"This is taking place because of Modi's insistence, Trump's pressure and Pakistan's helplessness," Saeed told reporters.

The United States has listed both the LeT and the charity as "foreign terrorist" organisations and has a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed's arrest.

A senior Pakistani defence ministry official said the government had not been contacted by the new US administration, but it had been feeling American 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, who declined to be identified.

Several other government officials have said recently that long-time ally China has been working to persuade Pakistan to act against wanted militants such as Saeed.

Officials in Beijing did not respond to queries on Tuesday, which falls during the Lunar New Year holiday.