LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court on Monday granted pre-arrest bail to Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his three aides in two cases of alleged illegal use of land allocated for religious seminaries for the purpose of terror financing.

Extraordinary security measures were witnessed outside the court when Hafiz Saeed and others reached the court in their private vehicles.

Advocate Imran Fazal Gill represented the JuD leaders and argued that the allegations against his clients were baseless and a result of international pressure on the Pakistan government. He said the petitioners had been charged in the false case by wrongly attributing them as leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

He said it was an admitted fact supported by superior court decisions that the petitioners had already quit the LeT before the organisation was declared proscribed in year 2002.

The counsel argued that the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) lodged the cases without any substantive evidence. He asked the court to allow bail to the petitioners as there were apprehensions of their arrest by the CTD.

ATC-III Judge Javed Iqbal Warraich granted the pre-arrest bails to the petitioners and restrained the CTD from arresting them till Aug 3. The other petitioners are Hafiz Masood, Amir Hamza and Zafar Iqbal.

Meanwhile, a Lahore High Court division bench sought replies from the Ministry of Interior, Punjab home department and CTD on a petition of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and his seven aides challenging an FIR carrying charge of terror financing.

Advocate A.K. Dogar represented the petitioners and contended that the facts narrated in the impugned FIR registered on July 1, 2019 illegally described them as members of LeT and levelled unlawful allegations of terror financing.

The counsel referred to a 2009 judgement by an LHC full bench against the then detention of Hafiz Saeed and stated that the petitioners were not members of LeT.

He said the LHC through another judgement issued in 2003 had also held that Hafiz Saeed left the leadership of LeT on Dec 24, 2001 while the organisation was banned on Jan 14, 2002.

The lawyer pleaded that the claim of the government that the petitioners were members of LeT stood disapproved in light of the two judgements.

Therefore, he asked the court to quash the impugned FIR lodged by the CTD for being unlawful and of no legal effect.

A government law officer opposed the petition and stated that it was not maintainable at this stage of the case.

However, the bench comprising Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry and Justice Waheed Khan directed the law officer to furnish written replies on behalf of the respondents by July 30.

The other petitioners are Mohammad Ayub Sheikh, Zafar Iqbal, Syed Luqman Ali Shah, Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki, Abdul Salam, Abdul Ghaffar and Abdul Qudoos Shahid.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019