LAHORE: JuD chief Hafiz Saeed will soon walk free after a Pakistani judicial body today ordered his release from house arrest, in a setback to India's efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
The banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah head, who carries a bounty of USD 10 million announced by the US for his role in terror activities, has been under detention since January this year.
Rejecting the government's plea to extend his detention for another three months, the Judicial Review Board of Punjab province comprising judges of the Lahore High Court ordered Saeed's release on the expiry of his 30-day house arrest which is going to expire in a couple of days.
"The government is ordered to release JuD chief Hafiz Saeed if he is not wanted in any other case," said the board which was headed by Justice Abdul Sami Khan.
Saeed may walk out free in a couple of days if the government does not detain him in any other case.
India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to re-investigate the Mumbai terror attack case and also demanded trial of Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi in the light of evidence it had provided to Islamabad.
Before the board's decision, a federal finance ministry official appeared before it and submitted "some important evidence" against Saeed to justify his detention.
The board, however, could not be convinced by his arguments.
Earlier, the home department of the Punjab government told the board that Pakistan might face sanctions from the international community if Saeed is released.
Earlier in the day, the department produced Saeed before the board and sought a three-month extension in his detention.
Strict security arrangements were taken at the LHC premises during Saeed's appearance before the board. A large number of JuD workers also gathered on the court’s premises.
After the decision, Saeed's supporters chanted slogans in favour of their leader.
Last month, the board had allowed 30-day extension to the detention of Saeed which will expire in a couple of days.
Meanwhile, a source in the Punjab government told PTI that Saeed may not walk out free as the government is mulling to detain him in another case.
"The government cannot afford to set Saeed free in the current circumstance. It cannot face international backlash in the event of releasing the JuD chief," the official source told PTI.
On January 31, Saeed and his four aides - Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain - were detained by the Punjab government for 90 days under preventative detention under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. However the last two extensions were made on the 'public safety law'.
The board, however, refused to give further extension to the detention of Saeed's four aides. They were later set free in the last week of October.
Under the law, the government can detain a person for up to three months under different charges but for extension to that detention, it needs approval from a judicial review board.
Separately, the LHC today held hearing on Saeed’s petition challenging his detention and adjourned the proceedings for December 6.
The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack.
Saeed was put under house arrest after Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 but he was freed by court in 2009.
Ten LeT militants killed 166 people and wounded dozens in Mumbai in November 2008. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught.
Kasab was executed after a court found him guilty and handed down death sentence.