June 2, 2009 8:08:30 pm
Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohd Saeed,allegedly linked to last year’s Mumbai terror attacks,was set free on Tuesday by the Lahore High Court,triggering an angry response from India which accused Pakistan of not being serious about fighting terror.
59-year-old Saeed,who has been under house arrest since December 11,was ordered to be released immediately by the High Court which held his detention as illegal.
India voiced its disappointment over Saeed’s release,saying it raises serious doubts over Pakistan’s sincerity in acting with determination against terrorist groups and individuals operating from its territory.
“These actions by Pakistan raise questions about sincerity of Pakistan’s investigations into the conspiracy that planned,launched and executed the terrorist attack on Mumbai,” the External Affairs Ministry spokesman said in Delhi.
JuD is Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba’s front organisation.
A close aide of 59-year-old Saeed,Col (retd) Nazir Mohammad,also held in connection with the November 26 attacks in Mumbai,was freed alongwith Saeed by the High Court.
In a brief order,a three-member bench of the High Court said,”The court accepts the petition of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Col (retd) Nazir Ahmed against their detention,which is illegal. The court orders their immediate release.” A detailed order will be pronounced later.
JuD activists,who gathered at the court,began shouting slogans in support of Saeed following the order. A JuD spokesman hailed the verdict and said the organisation will continue its “relief activities”.
Saeed,also founder of the LeT,was put under house arrest on December 11 last year after the UN Security Council banned JUD,declaring it a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba,which is blamed by India for the Mumbai attacks that left 160 people dead.
JuD chief’s counsel A K Dogar contended that there was no evidence of Saeed’s involvement and that his detention violated Pakistan’s constitution and laws.
Striking a defiant note,Saeed vowed to continue his struggle against what he described as the “India occupation” of J and K.
Denying any involvement of JuD in the Mumbai attacks,Saeed told a press conference held at a mosque in his hometown that his detention was a “conspiracy” against Pakistan.
Dogar,who shouted slogans like ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ (God is great) along with Saeed’s supporters after emerging from the court,said the JuD chief had been detained on December 11 last year without any valid grounds. During an earlier hearing of Saeed’s petition,Pakistan had for the first time admitted that JuD had links with al-Qaeda.
The judges said the government “has no sufficient grounds to detain the petitioners for preventive measures”. They added that the government could not rely on the UN Security Council resolution,which imposed restrictions on the JuD,to detain as two men as this was “not desired” by the resolution.
The bench quashed the “impugned detention orders” for Saeed and Ahmed and ordered that they should be “released forthwith if not required in any other case”.
The government of Punjab province said it would appeal against the High Court’s order in the Supreme Court. Provincial Home Secretary Nadeem Hasan Asif said the government was consulting legal experts about filing a review petition in the apex court.
Official sources said the appeal would be filed within the next few days.
The High Court issued its order after hearing arguments by the JuD chief’s counsel A K Dogar,who claimed the detention of the two men violated Pakistan’s constitution and laws.
Dogar said the UN Security Council had only sought a freeze on the JuD’s assets and a travel ban on its leaders and the world body had not demanded the arrest of JuD leaders.
He claimed it was not binding under Pakistani laws to implement UN Security Council resolutions.
The Deputy Attorney General of the federal government and the Advocate General of Punjab province rebutted Dogar’s arguments.
The Advocate General said it was binding on Pakistan to implement Security Council resolutions as the country was a signatory to the UN Charter.
Saeed’s house was declared a sub-jail during his detention. “We will provide security to Saeed if we are asked by our high-ups,” said SSP (Operations) Shafiq Ahmed. During an earlier hearing of Saeed’s petition challenging his detention,Pakistan’s Attorney General Latif Khosa had told the High Court that the government had evidence which showed the JuD’s “prima facie links” with Al Qaida.
This was the first time that Pakistan acknowledged the JuD’s links with Al-Qaida. Saeed and Ahmed had challenged their detention through a petition in the High Court. Saeed and several other JuD leaders were placed under house arrest in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks but most of them were subsequently freed.
Five LeT activists,including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah,are currently being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
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