A judicial review board of Pakistan's Punjab province on Wednesday ordered the release of 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind and banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, who has been under house arrest since January.
Rejecting the government's plea to extend his detention for another three months, the board ordered Saeed's release. The board had in October agreed to a month’s extension of Saeed’s house arrest, which is due to expire next week, The Indian Express reported.
"The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case," the board 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. After the decision, Saeed's supporters chanted slogans in favour of their leader.
According to CNN-News 18, Saeed would be free until the Pakistan government files review petition in other cases against Saeed. Saeed's lawyer AK Dogar told CNN-News18 that if his client was guilty, he should be punished. "But if there is no evidence against him, the court cannot pronounce him guilty."
"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," an official source told PTI.
However, on Tuesday, an official of Punjab Home Department had submitted before the review board that release of Saeed could lead to the imposition of international sanctions on Pakistan.
"We plead the board not to order the release of Saeed as Pakistan may face international sanctions," an official of the department had requested.
On 11 November, Pakistani authorities had written to the Punjab home department asking it to take stringent measures for the security of Saeed, claiming a "foreign intelligence agency" had planned to kill him.
Last month, the board had allowed a 30-day extension to the detention of Saeed which will expire next week. The board's order paved the way for Saeed's release.
On 31 January, Saeed and his four aides — Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain — were detained by the Punjab government for 90 days under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Saeed's four aides were set free in the last week of October.
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. Ten LeT militants killed 166 people and wounded dozens in Mumbai in November 2008. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught.
Kasab was executed after a court found him guilty and handed down a death sentence.
The United States has offered a $10 million bounty for Saaed. The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Nov 23, 2017 06:27:59 IST