Court orders release of Hafiz Saeed

LAHORE – A Lahore High Court review on Wednesday rejected appeal of the Punjab government seeking extension in detention of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and ordered his release.

A source in the Punjab government, however, said the authorities are planning to keep the JuD chief under house arrest in another case pending against him.

A three-member board, headed by Justice Abdus Sami Khan and comprising Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Aalia Neelum, passed the order when the provincial and federal governments failed to bring any convincing evidence against Hafiz Saeed.

The move comes just days after the US defence department persuaded Congress to drop a provision that had linked reimbursements to Pakistan with demonstrable action against Laskhkar-i-Taiba.

The officials of the interior ministry, foreign affairs, commerce and finance as well as law officers appeared before the board during an in-camera proceeding. Hafiz Saeed was produced under high security arrangements.

During the proceedings, the officials presented reports and evidences before the board, pleading that detention of Hafiz Saeed be extended for three months. They said Pakistan might face cut in financial funding and support if Hafiz Saeed was released.

However, the board members observed Hafiz Saeed had already 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 his 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.

After expiry of his detention order on Thursday, Hafiz Saeed would be released today.

On October 25, the review board extended detention of Hafiz Saeed for 30 days which would expire on the evening of November 23 (today). 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 asked the provincial government to detain him. The Punjab government detained Saeed and four others, including 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 Maintenance of Public Ordinance, 1960, after which the provincial review board, comprising judges of the Lahore High Court, was constituted that ordered release of four aides of Hafiz Saeed a week ago.

Talking to reporters outside the courtroom, Hafiz Saeed said, “I am thankful to the lawyers and the entire nation for supporting me. It is not only my case, but also that of entire Pakistan.” He also 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.”

The supporters of Hafiz Saeed showered rose petals on him and chanted slogans in his favour.

 Agencies add: Hafiz Saeed, who heads the UN-listed terrorist group JuD and has a $10 million US bounty on his head, will be freed today, a JuD official said. “The review board looking in to the case… has refused to extend his house arrest as the government failed to provide any evidence against the charges,” a spokesman for the party, Ahmed Nadeen said.

JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attack on Mumbai.

Analyst and retired Pakistani general Talat Masood told AFP that Saeed is given special treatment by the government “because they think that his organisation was supportive in Kashmir”.

Saeed said later in a video message that he was detained because of his association with Kashmir. “It’s because of Kashmir that India is after me, but all her efforts have been in vain and Allah has set me free,” he said in the video released by his party’s media team.

“This is victory of Pakistan’s freedom and God willing Kashmir will also be freed because I’m fighting Kashmir’s case,” Saeed added.

Masood said the government could seek new reasons to detain Saeed to avoid more international pressure, particularly from Washington, which has been pressuring Pakistan for months over its alleged support for militants including the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Masood said that his release could see him participate in a general election set to be held sometime next year, adding that if he won a seat in the National Assembly that could be “very embarrassing internationally”.

Court orders release of Hafiz Saeed

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