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.


Malaysia to hold election after ‘coronavirus is over’

Updated 9 min 12 sec ago

Malaysia to hold election after ‘coronavirus is over’

  • Muhyiddin’s eight-month-old administration has clung on with a two-seat majority in parliament
  • Malaysia is facing a new wave of coronavirus infections

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will hold a general election when the novel coronavirus pandemic is over, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Saturday, shortly after he averted a showdown by winning parliamentary support for his administration’s budget.
Parliament passed the largest-ever budget by a voice vote on Thursday despite weeks of threats by the opposition and some of Muhyiddin’s allies to derail the government’s 2021 spending plan, which could have triggered a crisis.
“God willing, when COVID-19 is over, we will hold a general election,” Muhyiddin said in a speech at a virtual annual general meeting of his Bersatu party.
“We will return the mandate to the people and leave it to them to choose which government they want.”
Muhyiddin’s eight-month-old administration has clung on with a two-seat majority in parliament, managing to fend off a leadership challenge from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and contain growing dissent in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the largest bloc in his coalition.
Muhyiddin said he met UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi this week and they agreed to mend ties between their parties and avoid competing against each other when an election is called.
“I know the people are fed up with the unending politicking. The people want political leaders to help them, not constantly fight for power,” Muhyiddin said.
Malaysia is facing a new wave of coronavirus infections, with cumulative cases rising more than four-fold since September to more than 60,000 as of Friday.