File reply on JuD chief's petition by May 5: Pak court to govt

Lahore: A Pakistani court on Tuesday gave the Defence Ministry time till May 5 to file a reply to Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed's petition asking the government to defend him in a US lawsuit filed by relatives of two Jewish victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Deputy Attorney General Nasim Kashmiri told Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court that a letter had been sent to the Defence Ministry regarding Saeed's petition.

Authorities had also held a telephonic conversation with the Defence Ministry's officials regard the submission of the reply sought by the court, Kashmiri said.

Kashmiri sought more time for submitting the reply as the Defence Ministry had not responded so far.

Justice Bandial adjourned the hearing of the petition till May 5 and asked the law officer to ensure that the reply was submitted at the next hearing.

A US district court in Brooklyn issued summons to Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, on December 16 last year in connection with the case related to the Mumbai attacks.

On December 31, the Pakistan government announced it would defend other persons named in the lawsuit, including Inter-Service Intelligence officials, but did not show any intention of defending Saeed.

The US court has summoned current ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and his predecessor Nadeem Taj and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders, including Saeed, to appear before it in connection with the lawsuit filed by relatives of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, who were among 166 people killed during the Mumbai attacks.

The lawsuit alleges that the LeT leaders and ISI officials had provided material support for the Mumbai attacks. The relatives of Holtzberg and his wife have made nine claims and sought damages of USD 75,000 for each claim.

At an earlier hearing in the Lahore High Court, the Interior Ministry had informed the judge that it had nothing to do with providing legal assistance to anyone in a lawsuit in USA.

Following a request from Saeed's counsel, the High Court had sought a reply from the Defence Ministry.

Saeed has contended that he heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a "charitable" organisation, and has no links with the LeT. He further contended that he is a citizen of Pakistan and should be defended by the government in the US lawsuit.