Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who has been under house arrest since January this year for his role in terror activities, was on Friday set free after the Pakistan government decided against detaining him further in any case.
The development comes hours after the Lahore High Court unanimously ordered Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Saeed's release on the completion of his 30-day house arrest which expired tonight.
Soon after his release, the JuD chief said that he will gather people across Pakistan for the "cause of Kashmir" and help the Kashmiris secure "freedom". "I fight the case of Kashmiris. I will gather the people from across the country for the cause of Kashmir. And we will try to help Kashmiris get their destination of freedom."
"I am very happy that none of the allegations against me proved as three judges of the Lahore High Court ordered my release ...India had levelled baseless allegations against me. The Lahore High Court's review board decision has proved that I am innocent," Saeed said. The JuD chief said that the US, on India's request, pressured Pakistan to detain him.
"... I was detained on the pressure of the US on the Pakistani government. The US did so on the request of India," he claimed.
Ten LeT militants killed 166 people and injured dozens in Mumbai on November 26, 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. Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and the UN over his alleged role in the attack.
JuD activists celebrate Hafiz Saeed's release
Several JuD activists gathered outside Saeed's residence in Jauhar town in Lahore to celebrate his release. They shouted anti-India slogans and described his leader as "a hope for Kashmiri people". "We are happy to see our leader free," a JuD spokesman Ahmad Nadim said.
"Hafiz Sahib received his release order from the jail officials. Now he is a free man," Ahmad said. He said after his release Saeed thanked to his supporters gathered outside his house.
"Saeed has been freed as the Punjab government decided not to detain him further in any other case," a top official in the government said.
He said after a long deliberation by the officials concerned it has been decided to follow the review board's decision.
Meanwhile, official sources say that Saeed's release would invite strong criticism from India and the US. "How will the PML-N government handle the foreign pressure to again detain Saeed is to be seen," they said.
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 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 refused to give further extension to the detention of Saeed's aides. They were set free last month. 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. 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 the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 but he was freed by court in 2009.
India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to re-investigate the Mumbai terror attack case and also demanded trial of Saeed and LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi in the light of evidence it had provided to Islamabad.