A legal team — on behalf of the chief of the banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), Hafiz Saeed — on Friday sent a Rs100 million defamation notice to Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for his remarks at the Asia Society forum in New York earlier this week.
Asif, who told the forum that Pakistan was not to blame for militant outfits in the country, had said: “Don’t blame us for the Haqqanis [the Haqqani Network] and don’t blame us for the Hafiz Saeeds [referring to the head of banned Jamaatud Dawa]. These people were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say ‘go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people’.”
Explore: Don’t blame Pakistan, Haqqanis were your ‘darlings’ at one time: Asif tells US
The notice, served by Advocate AK Dogar under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance of 2002, claims that Saeed is “respected as a deeply religious and devout Muslim”.
“I will be failing in my duty as a lawyer if I do not remind you of the Fundamental Right enshrined in Article 14 that [the] dignity of man is guaranteed by our Constitution,” it continues.
The notice accuses Asif of “an absolute lie and falsehood that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is one of those persons who had been the darlings of Americans and had been dining and wining in the White House.”
“I have been advised by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed to tell you that he has never been near the White House, not to speak of wined and dined. It is shocking to know that the foreign minister of my country is accusing Hafiz Muhammad Saeed of taking wine. This is abusive language and can never be used about my client. He is [a] patriotic Islam loving Muslim following the dictates of [the] Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). This is a defamatory statement punishable under Section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to five years imprisonment and with [a] fine.”
Dogar provides the definition of defamation as under Section 499 of the PPC: “Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read makes any imputation concerning any person so as to harm his reputation is said to defame that person.”
“The imputation of wining is a false statement which has injured the reputation of my client and lowered him in the estimation of others. This is slander and actionable libel. I am constrained to issue this 14 days’ notice under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 of the intention of my client to bring an action against you specifying the defamatory matter complained of.”
“Please take notice that my client intends to file a suit for damages to the tune of Rs100m for injuring the reputation of my client not only in Pakistan but all over the world.”
“Please take notice that apart from civil remedy, my client has a right to file a criminal complaint against you under Section 500 of the PPC. It goes without saying that you will be responsible for the entire cost of litigation,” he finishes.
Saeed was put under house arrest at his residence in Lahore’s Johar Town earlier this year in what Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) termed “a policy decision”.
Director General ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said of the arrest: “This is a policy decision that the state took in national interest. Lots of institutions will have to do their jobs.”
He denied that any foreign pressure was behind the arrest of the JuD chief.
He was detained under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977, according to an Interior Ministry notification issued at the time.
Recently, the Punjab home ministry, responding to an appeal for Saeed’s release before the Lahore High Court, said that releasing the JuD chief would cause unrest in the province.
The ministry said that Saeed was put under house arrest under the anti-terrorism laws to keep him from collecting funds ─ which is a violation of various resolutions of the United Nations ─ and that reports on the matter from the police and Counter-Terrorism Department had been submitted to the court.
The ministry pointed out that various cases were registered against members of JuD for collecting hides during the three days of Eidul Azha in contempt of the ministry’s orders. Cases were also registered against the party for collecting funds in contempt of the provincial ministry’s orders, the reply said.
The ministry also mentioned in its reply that the Election Commission of Pakistan had asked the JuD’s political wing Milli Muslim League’s (MML) NA-120 by-poll candidate to remove Saeed’s pictures from the promotional posters.
The house arrest of Saeed comes after years of pressure on Pakistan to put the JuD chief on trial and could ease recently escalating tensions with neighbour and arch-foe India.
Saeed had been accused by the United States and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people.
He, however, has repeatedly denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.