In Pakistan on Tuesday, the Lahore High Court lifted the detention of Hafiz Saeed, the amir or leader of the banned Jamaat ud-Dawa group, which the UN Security Council declared was a terrorist organisation in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai. The organisation, which India claims had a hand in the attack, was also subsequently outlawed in Pakistan, and Hafiz Saeed and a few of his senior aides were put under house arrest.
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed
After the court hearing, Hafiz Saeed’s lawyer A.K. Dogar made the following announcement to waiting journalists and supporters in Lahore: “The honourable judges have ruled that all these detentions are illegal and unconstitutional, and therefore Hafiz Saeed and his aides should be released immediately!”
Hafiz Abdur Rehman Makki, a senior leader of the banned outfit, was triumphant: “There was tremendous pressure from the government, the United States and India to keep Hafiz Saeed under detention. But the judiciary in Pakistan is free!”
Hafiz Saeed’s release is a major embarrassment for the Pakistani government, which banned Jamaat ud-Dawa six months ago. Jamaat ud-Dawa claimed it was only a charity but was seen by experts as a front organization of the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba accused of major terror attacks
India has accused Lashkar-e-Tayyaba of masterminding major terror attacks on its soil, including a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.
Imtiaz Alam, a renowned political commentator from Pakistan, said that although Jamaat ud-Dawa had been hit by the ban it was still active: “Their offices are still closed but they were able to continue and are continuing their activities in an underground manner.”
Although there were no concrete terrorism charges against Hafiz Saeed, he was put under administrative detention over six months ago for being a danger to the public order.
The court declared this detention under an ordinance dating back to British colonial rule as invalid.
Pakistan wants India to pass on statement of Mumbai gunman
But several leading Jamaat ud-Dawa activists remain in prison because of their suspected involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Imtiaz Alam said Pakistan was waiting for India to pass on the statement of the only surviving Mumbai gunman, Ajmal Kasab.
“The foreign office has asked India to provide an English translation of that statement because without that, it is difficult to proceed the case. I hope that the government of India will be providing the translation very soon and their trial will be commencing soon.”
Harsh reactions to release in India
In India, where many have accused Hafiz Saeed of being involved in the preparations for the Mumbai attacks, there were harsh reactions to his release on Tuesday.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “We’re unhappy that Pakistan does not show the degree of seriousness and commitment that it should to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack.”
India’s new Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna echoed this sentiment and made it clear that India would wait for new signals from Pakistan before suspended talks between the two neighbours could begin again: “It is in Pakistan’s court to create conditions for the dialogue to be resumed!”
With Hafiz Saeed released and his organisation still functioning to some extent, it would seem that only a speedy beginning of the trial against the suspected Pakistani masterminds of the Mumbai attacks would satisfy India.
Author: Thomas Bärthlein
Editor: Anne Thomas