On Wednesday, a provincial review board rejected Punjab government’s request for extension of the house arrest of Jamaat ud Dawa’s (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. The board, comprising of three judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC), has directed the government to release him after 30 days of his house arrest end. This move does not come as a surprise because of several reasons. The provincial government in January this year detained him first under Section II-EEE(1) of the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 for a period of 90 days. This move was taken after international pressure to look into the activities of the JuD chief. He is internationally recognised as a terrorist and JuD itself has been listed as a terrorist organisation by National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).

Ideally, in this period of 90 days, the government was supposed to open cases against him to verify the charges against him. The government was negligent in the matter and after the period was over, they detained him further for 30 days under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. The authorities, however, in such a case, need to get the extension approved from a review board before putting it in order. Last month, the board extended the period for 30 days but now refuses to do. It is easy to see why. There are no cases against him, no charges against him have been proved and neither is the government interested in opening up cases. It was simply a matter of appeasing the foreign powers and it stayed that way throughout the year.

This has also been confirmed by the Lahore High Court Bar Association Secretary Amir Saeed Rawn, who says that the government has failed to produce satisfactory answers to the board and it was just to divulge international attention towards the case. The in-camera proceeding also has recorded statements from a law officer and an officer from the finance ministry saying Pakistan could face international sanctions for releasing him and it is in his best interest to remain detained.

According to the constitution of Pakistan Article 10(4), in matters of external affairs a person cannot be detained for a period of three months unless a board approves the extension. Advocate A. K. Dogar is of the opinion that Hafiz Saeed’s freedom cannot be curtailed merely on the basis of a UN resolution. It will not be wrong to say that the arrest was only an eye wash and the government lacks the motivation to implement the intelligently framed National Action Plan (NAP).