26/11 mastermind freed in Pakistan, India calls it ‘regrettable’ (Roundup)June 2nd, 2009 - 6:25 pm ICT by IANS
Lahore/New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) A Pakistani court Tuesday ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, founder of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that India has accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks. New Delhi reacted sharply, saying it was “regrettable”.
A full bench of the Lahore High Court heard a a habeas corpus petition against the detention of Saeed, who had been placed under house arrest Dec 11 following the Mumbai attacks. It cited lack of evidence while setting him free.
India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said: “It is regrettable that Pakistan has resorted to this.”
Referring to the 26/11 terror attack, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “We are unhappy that Pakistan has not shown the degree of seriousness it should to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime.”
Pakistan government lawyers said they were surprised at the verdict, more so as they had presented evidence linking Saeed’s Jamaat-ud Daawa (JuD) - an Islamist charity that served as a front for the LeT which was outlawed in 2001 - with the Al Qaeda.
They also indicated that there could be an appeal against the high court verdict in the Supreme Court.
The Lahore High Court also freed Saeed’s associate, Col. (retd) Nazir Ahmad, saying there was insufficient evidence to establish their involvement in terrorist activities.
“The court has said the detention of Hafiz Saeed was a violation of the constitution and the law of this country,” Saeed’s counsel A.K. Dogar told reporters after the Lahore High Court delivered its verdict.
Saeed, an Islamist ideologue who often preaches hatred against India in his fiery Friday sermons at the JuD headquarters in Muridke near Lahore, was detained nearly six months ago after the United Nations declared the JuD a terrorist group.
The release of Saeed elicited strong reactions from India which saw it as yet another evidence of Pakistan’s lack of sincerity in bringing the architects and perpetrators of the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai carnage to justice. Over 170 people were killed in the attack.
Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna said it has “put under a cloud” Pakistan’s “seriousness” to bring the 26/11 perpetrators to book.
He also said: “This has nothing to do with Kashmir. Terrorism, whether in Kashmir, Mumbai or elsewhere is abominable.
“Kashmir is a part of the composite dialogue which we have initiated with Pakistan. It is in Pakistan’s part to create conditions for the dialogue to resume.”
An official statement by India’s external affairs ministry encapsulated New Delhi’s “disappointment” and its growing impatience at any lack of progress by Islamabad in the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
“We are disappointed at the release of Hafiz Saeed,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said in a statement.
“Hafiz Saeed is specifically listed as linked to these terrorist groups. It is regrettable that notwithstanding this background and the international obligations it entails on Pakistan, he has been released,” the spokesman said.
Pointing out that Saeed, the LeT and the JuD “have a long and well established background of planning and launching terrorist acts against India”, Prakash said: “His professed ideology and public statements leave no doubt as to his terrorist inclinations.
“These actions by Pakistan raise questions about the sincerity of Pakistan’s investigations into the conspiracy that planned, launched and executed the terrorist attack on Mumbai in which hundreds of innocent Indian and foreign nationals lost their lives.
“Pakistan has yet to report the progress of the investigations that she had committed to undertake into that conspiracy,” the spokesman added.
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 Mumbai attacks.
In December 2008, Pakistani authorities arrested LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi after India handed over to the FBI intercepts of telephone conversations between him and the Mumbai attackers.
Four of Lakhvi’s associates - Zarar Shah, Abu al-Qama, Hammad Amin Saddiq and Shahid Jameel Riaz - have been jailed.
India had in January handed over a dossier to Pakistan linking the LeT and some Pakistani nationals to the Mumbai carnage. In February, Pakistan admitted that part of the Mumbai conspiracy was planned in this country and also submitted a list of 30 questions on the Indian dossier of the evidence on the Mumbai attack. India replied to this in March. Pakistan then sought another set of clarifications that India has provided.