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.


EU weighs options as Turkey stand-off grinds on

Updated 04 December 2020

EU weighs options as Turkey stand-off grinds on

  • Next week’s EU summit will be held in Brussels with leaders meeting face-to-face
  • Turkey and Greece countries are NATO members and the alliance has set up a “de-confliction mechanism”

BRUSSELS: European Council chief Charles Michel said Friday that Turkey has not de-escalated its stand-off with Greece and warned EU members now need to consider tougher options.
“I think that the cat and mouse game needs to end,” Michel said, referring to Turkey’s repeated incursions into Greek waters with gas exploration vessels.
“We will have a debate at the European summit on December 10 and we are ready to use the means at our disposal,” he added.
Next week’s EU summit will be held in Brussels with leaders meeting face-to-face after videoconferences were held as a coronavirus prevention measure.
One possibility, backed by some members, would be economic sanctions, but many states are not convinced.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a conference in Italy “the EU Council will have to take the decision that only the EU can take, because the sanctions regime, it’s a matter for the member states.”
“There are not very many positive signals that came from Turkey during these months — in Cyprus and on the drilling, the talks between Greece and Turkey have not been developing,” he said.
Turkey has been challenging Greece over maritime territory in the Eastern Mediterranean, repeatedly sending a gas exploration vessel into Greek waters.
Both countries are NATO members and the alliance has set up a “de-confliction mechanism” to help avoid accidental military clashes.
But a German-led diplomatic approach to Ankara has made little progress in resolving the underlying issues, and some EU members — notably France and Greece itself — are pushing for stronger action.
Other EU capitals are more cautious, some fearing an escalating stand-off could see Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government once again allow a wave of refugees to head for EU borders.
Michel, who will host the summit, expressed Europe’s frustration.
“In October, after a very dense and strategic high level exchange, we defined a very positive offer to Turkey, we extended our hands,” he told a news conference to mark his first year in office.
“But the condition to move in that area is that Turkey needs to stop unilateral provocations, hostile statements, and the non-respect of international principles and rules-based society.
“Well, since October, things have not been very positive,” Michel noted.
“Since that time, we’ve seen that there have been unilateral acts that have taken place, a hostile rhetoric has been expressed.”
Backed by Turkish navy frigates, the research vessel the Oruc Reis was first deployed in August and again in October to the waters off Kastellorizo island, in defiance of EU and US calls to stop.
It returned to port again in October, but may go back to the disputed zone while Ankara says that, with its long Mediterranean coastline, its claim to sovereign waters in the region is stronger than Greece’s, which is based on its ownership of tiny Kastellorizo.