A Pakistani review board on Wednesday set aside a request from authorities to extend the house arrest of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and ordered his immediate release.
Saeed, accused of masterminding the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people nearly nine years ago, had been placed under house arrest in January, largely because of pressure from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force that tracks terror financing.
The government of Punjab province had sought a three-month extension in Saeed’s detention but the request was turned down by a judicial review board. Saeed, who now heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, is scheduled to be released on Thursday.
“The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case,” the judicial review board said.
During a hearing by the judicial review board on Tuesday, the Punjab government had said Pakistan might face sanctions from the international community if the JuD chief is released. The board comprises judges of the Lahore high court.
Saeed, through his lawyer AK Dogar, had challenged his detention and contended that requirements laid by the Supreme Court had not been fulfilled. He had requested the court to order his release.
Under Pakistani laws, the government can detain a person for up to three months under different charges but an extension in that detention requires approval from a judicial review board.
On January 31, Saeed and four aides – Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were detained by the Punjab government for 90 days under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Saeed’s aides were freed in the last week of October after the Punjab government did not extend the notification for their detention under the Anti-Terrorism Act and withdrew an application pending before the federal review board.
Saeed has lived freely in the city of Lahore and addressed rallies and gatherings across Pakistan despite the US offered a $10 million bounty for him in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The JuD has been described by the US and the UN as a front for the banned LeT, which was blamed for the Mumbai attacks.