Lahore: Mumbai attack mastermind and banned JuD chief Hafiz Saeed today walked free from house arrest and said he would gather people across Pakistan for the "cause of Kashmir" and try to help Kashmiris get their "destination of freedom".
The Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) head, who carries a USD 10 million American bounty for his role in terror activities, was freed after the government decided against detaining him further in any case. He was under detention since January.
"I was detained for 10 months only to stop my voice for Kashmir," Saeed told his supporters gathered outside his residence to celebrate his release.
"I fight for 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," he said upon his release.
Punjab province's Judicial Review Board comprising judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday unanimously ordered Saeed's release on the completion of his 30-day house arrest which expired last night.
Saeed said that he was detained when he announced a month of solidarity for Kashmiris in January.
Using the release order to buttress his claim of "innocence", Saeed said: "I am very happy that none of the allegations against me proved as three judges of the LHC ordered my release... India had levelled baseless allegations against me. The LHC's review board decision has proved that I am innocent".
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.
Several JuD supporters, gathered outside Saeed's house in Lahore's Jauhar town to celebrate his release, shouted anti- India slogans and described their leader as "a hope for the Kashmiri people".
"We are happy to see our leader free. Hafiz sahib received his release order from the jail officials. Now he is a free man," JuD spokesman Ahmad Nadim said.
"Saeed has been freed as the Punjab government decided not to detain him further in any other case," a top government official told PTI.
He said that after a long deliberation, it has been decided to follow the review board's decision.
Saeed's release would invite strong criticism from India and the US, official sources said.
"It remains to be seen as how would the PML-N government handle the foreign pressure to again detain Saeed," they said.
Punjab Assistant Advocate General Sattar Sahil said the government law officer had presented "some important evidence" to justify Saeed's detention, but all three members of the board unanimously rejected it and ordered his release.
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 the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Fourth Schedule of Anti- Terrorism Act 1997. 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.
According to the rules, the government could detain a person for up to three months under different charges, but for extension, 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 terror attack in 2008 in which 166 people, including six Americans, were killed.
Saeed was put under house arrest after the Mumbai attack in November 2008 but he was freed by a court in 2009.
India has repeatedly asked Pakistan to re-investigate the Mumbai terror attack case and demanded trial of Saeed and LeT operations commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi in the light of evidence it had provided to Islamabad.
Ten LeT militants had 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 and executed after a court found him guilty.
Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and the UN after the Mumbai attack.Hafiz Saeed Walks Free; Vows To Fight For 'Kashmir Cause'