Pakistani court: Government must produce evidence or Hafiz Saeed goes free

A.K. Dogar, center, defense counsel of Hafiz Saeed, comes out of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2017

Pakistani court: Government must produce evidence or Hafiz Saeed goes free

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court on Friday postponed legal proceedings against the alleged mastermind of the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai in which more than 160 people died.
Hafiz Saeed is the chief of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (JuD), a charity which many believe is a front for the militant group of which Saeed is a co-founder, Lashkar-e-Taiba — designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, the EU and several countries.
Saeed and four aides were placed under house arrest in Pakistan in January under the Anti-Terrorism Act, but no formal charges have yet been filed against him. The judge accepted the Interior Ministry’s request to present its evidence against Saeed to him privately in his chambers due to the sensitivity of the case.
Saeed’s defense counsel, A.K. Dogar, has challenged his client’s detention and claims that Saeed and his aides were arrested because of pressure from India and the US — which has offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s arrest. Saeed tops India’s most-wanted list as he is accused of involvement in a series of attacks on Indian soil dating back to 2001. Saeed denies the allegations.
“Indian pressure has led the government to keep Hafiz Saeed detained,” a JuD spokesman told Arab News. “Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been trying to please Indian Prime Minister Modi through gestures of friendship and had made promises to keep this friendship intact. Instead of countering Indian propaganda — which the Americans are also part of — Pakistan’s foreign minister has conceded to their demands, leaving the Pakistani people unprotected and arresting them.”
The spokesman claimed that India’s pursuit of punitive measures against Saeed is not connected to terrorist attacks, but to JuD’s support of Kashmiri independence.
“Indians hate JuD because of its undeterred support for the Kashmiri cause,” he said. “We have brought evidence of Indian atrocities committed against the people of Kashmir seeking self-determination, and this aggravates them.”
On Tuesday, Dogar reportedly described Saeed’s detention as “illegal and a violation of basic rights” and asked the court to declare the detention null and void.
The court warned that Saeed, whose initial 90-day sentence has already been extended twice, would be freed if the government failed to submit evidence to legally keep him detained.
“No citizen can be detained for an extended period on the basis of merely press clippings,” Justice Saeed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi said, reportedly angered by the absence of Interior Ministry officials at the hearing, according to local news reports. He added that the “conduct of the government” suggested there was “no substantial evidence against the petitioners.”
Naqvi gave the secretary of the interior until next week to submit evidence.
JuD last month formed the Milli Muslim League (MML) in a bid to enter mainstream politics. They nominated a candidate for the Lahore constituency seat left vacant by the judicial ouster of Nawaz Sharif on July 28. The MML candidate failed to win, but did register more votes than two of Pakistan’s largest political parties in the election.
Pakistan’s election commission has rejected the party’s registration, but the MML is still expected to participate in by-elections in Peshawar on Oct. 26.
The party’s formation is partly the result of new attempts by the government to integrate groups with militant links into the country’s political sphere. At a press briefing in Islamabad last week, Pakistan Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor explained that this process had already started, in reference to the MML.
“The government has started some discussion over mainstreaming them, so that they can make a constructive contribution,” he said.


Pope Francis hosts historic meeting of Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

Pope greeted the members and heads of the secretariat of the committee and presented the members with a copy of the Document on Human Fraternity. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 min 8 sec ago

Pope Francis hosts historic meeting of Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

  • The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity consists of religious, educational and cultural leaders from across the world
  • The Committee expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for his welcome and thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb for his encouraging words

DUBAI: The first meeting of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was recently hosted by Pope Francis at the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The inaugural convening of the Committee brought all members of the newly-established, independent body together. The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, first announced in August, consists of religious, educational and cultural leaders from across the world who are inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that was signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, during the pontiff’s visit in February this year.

The meeting focused on establishing the organizational structure and mandate of the new body, as well as endorsing its independence as an advisory committee empowered to progress the goal of peaceful coexistence. The Pope greeted the members and heads of the secretariat of the committee and presented the members with a copy of the Document on Human Fraternity. He then expressed words of gratitude and commended the group as “artisans of fraternity”, encouraging them to be at the origin of new policies “not only of outstretched hands but of open hearts.”

After being received by the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Edgar Peña Parra, the committee returned to Casa Santa Marta to start its work. The Committee expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for his welcome and thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb for his encouraging words.