Pak court adjourns Saeed's petition to defend him in US court

Lahore: A Pakistani court adjourned hearing on a petition filed by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeed seeking legal aid from the government to defend him in a US lawsuit filed by relatives of two Jewish-American victims of the Mumbai attacks following a request from the petitioner.

Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the Lahore High Court put off the matter after Saeed's counsel informed the court that he intended to move an application for placing the petition before Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry as he had headed a bench that decided a related matter in the past.

Saeed, blamed by India for masterminding the Mumbai incident, had last week filed a petition in the High Court asking it to direct the federal government to appoint a counsel to defend him in a lawsuit filed in a Brooklyn court by relatives of two Jewish victims of the 2008 attacks.

Saeed contended he had the right to seek aid from the government as it had decided to defend Inter-Services Intelligence officials named in the lawsuit.

Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who was recently appointed Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, headed a division bench that freed Saeed from house arrest on June 2, 2009.

Saeed had then been detained by Pakistani authorities after the UN Security Council declared the JuD a front for the banned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT).

Chaudhry has also ruled in favour of several petitions moved by pro-Islamist organisations and groups. In a controversial ruling last year, he briefly banned Facebook after some groups objected to pages on the social networking website that featured blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.

The Pakistan government has already skirted the issue of defending Saeed in the US lawsuit, with the Foreign Office spokesman saying authorities would only protect the interests of officials named in the case.

Pakistan's decision to defend ISI officials does not apply to "non-officials", the spokesman said last week.

In his petition, Saeed has claimed that he heads the JuD, which he described as a "charitable organisation" that has no links with the LeT.

He further claimed he was "wrongly detained" by the government after the Mumbai attacks but a bench of the Lahore High Court had ordered his release after "observing that there was no evidence that the petitioner had any links with Al Qaeda or any terrorist who could endanger the security of Pakistan".

This bench was headed by current Chief Justice Chaudhry.

Saeed and several officials, including ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuaj Pasha and his predecessor, Lt Gen Nadeem Taj, have been served summons by the US District Court in Brooklyn.