LAHORE: A provincial review board comprising three judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday rejected the Punjab government’s request for an extension of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s detention and directed the government to release him once the 30 days of his house arrest ended.
The board, headed by Justice Abdul Sami Khan, directed the government to release Mr Saeed if he was not required in any other cases. His detention will end at midnight on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the government sought a three-month extension of his detention and produced the JuD chief before the board amid strict security arrangements. A large number of JuD workers were present on the court’s premises to welcome their leader.
During the in-camera proceedings, officers of the Finance Ministry and the Punjab Home Department presented before the board records highlighting the reasons for Mr Saeed’s detention. However, they apparently failed to provide satisfactory answers to queries posed by members of the board regarding the alleged anti-state activities Mr Saeed was accused of being a part of. The judges asked the government officials to present evidence, if any, to prove the involvement of the JuD leader in any illegal or anti-state activity.
An official from the finance ministry took up the stance that Pakistan could face international sanctions if Mr Saeed was released. A law officer told the board that Mr Saeed’s detention was also in his favour as he faced threats to his life.
Lahore High Court Bar Association’s Secretary Amir Saeed Rawn appeared before the board to assist it on the matter, and said that the government had no concrete evidence against Mr Saeed and had detained him to appease foreign powers.
Unsatisfied with the answers provided by the government, the board set aside Mr Saeed’s detention and ordered his release. Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Aalia Neelum were the other two members of the board.
The provincial government had first detained Hafiz Saeed in January this year for a period of 90 days in exercise of powers under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti Terrorism Act 1997. Later, the government extended his detention on its own under the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance till it was required to obtain approval from a review board last month. The board had extended Mr Saeed’s detention for another 30 days, starting from Oct 25. Four other JuD leaders who had been under house arrest with him were released on directions of the review board.
Earlier in the morning, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad separately heard Mr Saeed’s writ petition challenging his detention. The judge had adjourned the hearing till Dec 6 to wait for the decision of the review board, which was announced late in the afternoon on Wednesday. Advocate A.K. Dogar had argued the government had no evidence to prove that Mr Saeed was a risk to national security. He added that his freedoms could not be curtailed merely on the basis of UN resolutions.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2017