Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday struck down as illegal the detention of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and head of the Jamaat-ud-daawa, and ordered his release.

Although Justice Akhtar Shabbir struck down the detention on a legality, he criticised the grounds of the detention, which included fund-raising by the JuD for war victims in Palestine and Lebanon, and the threat its activities posed to relations with "neighbouring countries." The second amounted to saying Pakistan's judiciary could be influenced by foreign pressures, the judge observed.

The last time the court ordered him released on August 28, he was rearrested.

Tuesday's order came on a writ petition by Mr. Saeed's wife Maimoona, challenging the second arrest.

The court said the Punjab government had violated provisions of the Constitution and a section of the Maintenance of Public Order Act under which Mr. Saeed was detained that the arrestee must be informed of specific charges and shown the detention order.

In Mr. Saeed's case, the government had done neither, rendering the detention illegal. In discussing the grounds, Justice Shabbir said Pakistan's "neighbours" included China, India, Iran and Afghanistan.

He asked relations with which of these countries Mr. Saeed had jeopardised, that too in the two hours between his release the first time and re-arrest.

While arresting him the first time on August 9, the government had only said he was a threat to the maintenance of public order.