Islamabad: In a fresh blow to India’s efforts to bring perpetrators of 26/11 to justice, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing into the cases against Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed’s indefinitely.
The Pakistan SC, while taking up petitions challenging the release of Hafiz Saeed from house arrest, adjourned the hearing indefinitely after the Advocate General representing Punjab government in the case resigned.
The case’s adjournment also comes in the wake of admission by top Pakistani government officials, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, that his government had no concrete evidence to prosecute the JuD chief.
Hafiz Saeed’s lawyer AK Dogar told reporters that his client was now a ‘free man’.
The hearing of two petitions filed by the Federal and Punjab governments have been adjourned indefinitely by the apex court, Dogar added.
Sources said the move was apparently linked to the resignation on Sunday of Punjab`s Advocate General Raza Farooq who was representing the provincial government in the case.
The provincial government sought time from the apex court to appoint a new Advocate General and asked for the hearing to be adjourned, sources said.
The reason for Raza`s resignation was not clear, but speculation is rife that he might have resigned in wake of the SC verdict on the Musharraf case that declared appointment of former Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar as "unconstitutional".
It also ruled that most appointments made by Dogar, with a few exceptions, were unconstitutional.
Within hours of the Pak SC decision, the Union Home Ministry here held an emergency meet to discuss the development.
India claims Hafiz Saeed masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks last year and that his so-called religious organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawah is a front of the terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
The United Nations Security Council had banned JuD post Mumbai attacks and Pakistani authorities had placed its chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest subsequently in December.
However, the Lahore High Court had in June this year ordered the release of the JuD chief from detention citing lack of evidence against him for his involvement in the 26/11 carnage.
The Federal and Punjab province governments had then challenged Hafiz Saeed’s release, but only after much flip-flop and pressure from India and the international community.
Though India last week handed over to Pakistan a fourth dossier on the Mumbai terror attacks, which specifically included additional evidence of the JuD chief’s involvement, Pakistan has continuously made its intentions clear – directly or indirectly – that it was not serious in bringing Hafiz Saeed to justice.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik had recently made it clear that his government will arrest outlawed Hafiz Saeed for the lack of concrete evidence against him.
The JuD chief will not be arrested merely on the basis of statements linking him to the attacks and the Indian government has been asked to provide proof of his involvement in any misdeeds, Malik had said.
"We do not have any proof against Hafiz Saeed," Malik told Geo News channel in an interview. "We have demanded and we are demanding from India that if you have proof, give (it to) us, but do not do propaganda. I assure we will take action. But just on hearsay we cannot arrest our citizen," he added.
Five LeT operatives, including operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, arrested by Pakistani security agencies, are currently facing trial in an anti-terror court for alleged their involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Reacting to Malik’s remarks, Home Minister P Chidambaram had last week said India had provided Pakistan with enough proof to prosecute Hafiz Saeed and that it was time Pakistan starts to act against the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks.
Criticising Islamabad for inaction, Chidambaram had said, “They should stop asking questions and get on with the job. There is enough evidence provided in the dossier given to Pakistan.”
News reports last week also claimed that Pakistani investigation agencies had, for the very first time, revealed that they have adequate proof of the banned LeT being directly involved in the 26/11 terror attacks.
“The investigation has established beyond any reasonable doubt that the defunct LeT activists conspired, abetted, planned, financed and established communication network to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai,” the report stated.
Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone gunman captured alive during the Mumbai mayhem, has admitted to being a Pakistani national and to being trained by the LeT for the November 26-29, 2008 Mumbai attacks that claimed the lives of over 180 people, including 26 foreigners.