Govt watches helplessly as court frees Saeed

November 28, 2017

LAHORE - The Lahore High Court (LHC) gave an important verdict last week on release of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. The verdict coincided with a lawyers’ rally against the police crackdown on activists of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah staging a sit-in at Faizabad Interchange in Rawalpindi against changes to the declaration of finality of prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In a much awaited decision, a Lahore High Court review board finally dismissed government’s plea to extend detention of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed. Court orders for the release of Saeed overshadowed all other cases last week.

The three-member board, headed by Justice Abdul Sami Khan and consisting of Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Aalia Neelum, passed the order when the provincial and federal governments failed to bring any cogent evidence against Hafiz Saeed.

Officials of the interior, foreign, commerce and finance ministries as well as law officers appeared before the board during in-camera proceedings. Hafiz Saeed was produced in the court amid high security arrangements.

The officials presented reports and evidence to the board, pleading that detention of Hafiz Saeed be extended for three months. They said Pakistan might face cut in funding and support if Hafiz Saeed is released. However, the board members observed that Hafiz Saeed had been in detention for 10 months and could not be detained anymore under the law. The judges asked the officials to present any cogent evidence against Saeed’s involvement in any anti-state activity. However, the officials failed to present any solid evidence.

The board had earlier directed the Finance Ministry to furnish the evidence to justify detention or extension in detention of the JuD chief. The ministry also could not convince the board, which ordered release of the detainee.

On October 25, the review board had extended detention of Hafiz Saeed for 30 days and it expired on November 23. According to Maintenance of Public Order, 1960, if a board does not grant extension in detention of any person, it automatically expires.

Hafiz Saeed had been in detention since January 28 when the federal government had asked the provincial government to detain him. The Punjab government detained Saeed and four others -- Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal Shahbaz, Abdur Rehman and Qazi Kashif Hussain.

They used to appear before a federal review board. However, the government later detained them under the Maintenance of Public Ordinance, 1960. Later, the provincial review board, consisting of judges of the Lahore High Court , was constituted and it ordered release of four aides of Hafiz Saeed a week ago.

Coming out of courtroom, Hafiz Saeed talked to reporters and said, “I am thankful to lawyers and the entire nation for supporting me. It is not only my case; it’s the case of entire Pakistan.” He said, “It is a slap on the face of India, as we have established that Pakistan is a free state.” Hafiz Saeed affirmed India could not cause any harm to Pakistan and Kashmir would soon be free. His supporters showered rose petals on him and chanted slogans in his favour.

On Saturday, a group of lawyers took out a rally in favour of Rawalpindi protesters. They held a protest and blocked The Mall. The Lahore High Court Bar Association called an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the situation and make a plan. The bar leaders slammed the operation against Faizabad protesters.

In a rare case last week, the LHC dismissed petition of a man who denied fatherhood to his baby girl and challenged decision of a family court about payment of monthly maintenance allowance to the minor. He was fined for taking a wrong plea.

Khalid Javed, a resident of Nankana Sahib, had moved the petition, challenging decision of a family court that ordered him to pay Rs 50,000 as monthly allowance to the minor living with her mother.

In his petition, he had questioned legitimacy of the child before the family court but the court did not accept his plea and rejected his stance. He argued that since their marriage in 2006 his wife remained at her parents’ house and never lived with him. Later, the petitioner said, he disassociated himself from his wife due to her “loose character”.

The counsel argued that the minor was not the daughter of the petitioner and she was not entitled to maintenance allowance. He prayed the court to set aside the decision of the family court for being illegal and without lawful jurisdiction.

Justice Shahid Jamil Khan took strong notice of the plea taken by the petitioner and dismissed his petition with a fine of Rs50,000.

Also, a National Accountability Court allowed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to have 10-day physical custody of former secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Ameer Khan, who was linked to a Rs985 million corruption case.

A deputy prosecutor of the bureau told the court that the suspect committed misappropriation during his stint as secretary of ETPB from 2008 to 2011. He said the suspect had a key role in illegal investment of over Rs985 million in a private company. He sought physical remand of the accused for investigation which the court allowed.

Last week, the media talk of Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali was also significant. He said powers of the president to dissolve assemblies or pardon any convict were subject to advice of the prime minister and the cabinet. He was responding to media queries at sub-office of the attorney general at the Lahore High Court about rumours about dissolution of assemblies and possibility of presidential pardon to disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The AGP stated though the president was head of the state, but had a limited role in dissolution of the parliament and extending pardon to anyone. The status of president’s powers in Pakistan was equal to British Queen and Indian’s president, he said.

The AGP said heading cabinet meetings by party’s head was a normal practice in democratic countries. He cited the examples of Imran Khan and Asif Ali Zardari who preside over cabinet meetings in KP and Sindh.