The Lahore High Court on Monday ruled as illegal two cases registered under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act against Jamat-ud-dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, accepting his plea that he could not be charged under this law as his group was not a proscribed organisation.
The ruling was entirely expected. Even a cursory reading of the Anti-Terrorism Act makes it clear that Section 11 F (4), under which police in Faisalabad town of Punjab province charged Saeed for making two speeches glorifying jihad and collecting funds for his group, applies only to banned groups.
Jamat-ud-dawa is a front organisation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed by India for carrying out the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. India has named Saeed as the mastermind of the attacks. Days after the attack, it was designated as a terrorist group by the U.N. Security Council.
Following this, the Pakistan government closed down some offices of the group and detained some of its leaders and cadres for a few months, but there was never any notification from the government proscribing the JuD, even though Interior Minister Rehman Malik made a statement in the National Assembly in August, mentioning it in a list of banned organisations.
Government officials glided over the issue at the time saying the recommended U.N. sanctions — a travel ban on the leadership of the group, freezing its assets and an embargo on arms — had all been imposed on the JuD and amounted to a ban.
The JuD chief was quick to challenge the FIRs, and through his lawyer A. K. Dogar, filed two constitutional petitions in the High Court, one for each FIR, asking that the cases be quashed on this ground.
When the two-judge Bench took up the two petitions on Monday morning, the first question that Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Najamuz Zaman put to the Punjab Additional Advocate-General was whether there was any government order banning the group.
The government lawyer asked the court to give him half-an-hour to find out. He returned to say that he had been instructed by the federal government that there was no such order.
The Bench asked Mr. Dogar if he wanted to make the federal government a party in the case.
When Saeed’s lawyer told him there was no need as the federal government had already accepted there was no ban on the JuD, the Bench immediately ruled the two FIRs illegal and ordered that they should be quashed.