A Judicial Review Board of Pakistan province on Wednesday issued orders to release Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) headman Hafiz Saeed from house arrest, news agency PTI reported. Saeed, the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, had been under house arrest since January.
The judicial board rejected Pakistan government’s plea asking to extend the period of confinement by another three months and said, “The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case.”
The board had in October agreed to a month’s extension of Saeed’s house arrest, which is due to expire on Thursday. Saeed’s counsel Advocate A K Dogar said that “his client will walk free tomorrow”. He also said, “The JuD chief was illegally detained for 297 days. Hafiz Saeed always worked for Pakistan and the government could not
prove any allegation against him.”
Soon after the verdict, Saeed resorted to rhetoric and said all efforts by India have failed and he was released.
“It was not mine but Pakistan’s case. Today, India faced embarrassment as it is proved that Pakistan is an independent country. I tell you… India can do no harm to me and Kashmir will soon get freedom,” the JuD chief said in a statement.
India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to re-investigate the Mumbai terror attack case and also demanded trial of Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi in the light of evidence it had provided to Islamabad.
Before the board’s decision, a federal finance ministry official appeared before it and submitted “some important evidence” against Saeed to justify his detention. The board, however, could not be convinced by his arguments.
The board had asked the ministry to explain how release of a single individual would affect the entire country.
Punjab Assistant Advocate General Sattar Sahil said the government law officer had presented had ‘some important evidence’ to justify detention of Saeed but all three members of the board unanimously rejected it and ordered his release.
Earlier, the home department of the Punjab government told the board that Pakistan might face sanctions from the international community if Saeed is released.
Hafiz Saeed along with his four aids – Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were taken into custody by the Punjab government on January 31 this year. They were detained for 90 days under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. However, the last two extensions were made on the ‘public safety law’.
While his four aides were set free in the last week of October, Saeed was detained for another month.
Earlier on Wednesday, the home department produced Saeed before the board and sought a three-month extension in his detention.
Dogar said he told the board that those four aides of Saeed it (board) had set free last month had not created any law and order situation in the country after their release as was being alleged by the home department.
“The same allegation the department has levelled against his client which is unfounded. Saeed has been placed under house arrest only to please the US and India,” Dogar said and warned the government from detaining Saeed again in any other ‘fake’ case or charges.
“We will move the court without any delay if the government does not comply with the order of the judicial board and set him free tomorrow,” he said.
Strict security arrangements were taken at the LHC premises during Saeed’s appearance before the board. A large number of JuD workers also gathered on the court’s premises. Saeed’s supporters chanted slogans in favour of their leader.
Welcoming the board’s decision, JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said, “The friends of India are disappointed today.”
Meanwhile, PTI quoted a source in the Punjab government as saying: “Saeed may not walk out free as the government is mulling to detain him in another case.”
“The government cannot afford to set Saeed free in the current circumstance. It cannot face international backlash in the event of releasing the JuD chief,” the official said according to PTI.
Under the law, the government can detain a person for up to three months under different charges but for extension to that detention it needs approval from a judicial review board.
Separately, the LHC on Wednesday held hearing on Saeed’s petition challenging his detention and adjourned the proceedings for December 6.
The Jamaat-ud-Dawah is believed to be the front organisation for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which was responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack.
Hafiz Saeed, who carries a $10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities, is set to contest general elections in the country scheduled for September 2018. The JuD had established their political party Milli Muslim League in August and plans to field candidates in every constituency in the country.
(With inputs from PTI)