The Jamaat-ud-Dawah led by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has set up a parallel judicial system to dispense justice under Shariah laws in Pakistan’s Punjab province, reflecting the influence of the group blamed for the Mumbai attacks.
The JuD, named by the US and the UN as a front for the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba, has set up the “Darul Qaza Sharia” at its headquarters, Jamia Qadsia, in Chauburji area of Lahore. The court has a ‘qazi’ (judge) who is aided by ‘khadmin’ (court associates) to decide complaints from the people.
The court violates Pakistan’s Constitution, the Dawn newspaper quoted an unnamed legal expert as saying. The JuD claimed it offers only arbitration and resolves disputes in accordance with Islamic law.
Despite being sanctioned by the US and the UN, the JuD has not been banned by Pakistan. Officials say there is no evidence linking the group to terror activities and the JuD runs an extensive network of schools and hospitals across the country.
The JuD court has taken up complaints and summoned “defendants” in person or through a legal counsel. It has also warned people of strict action under Shariah laws if they do not respond to its notices.
The Dawn reported it had a copy of an official JuD summons that bore two monograms – one of Darul Qaza Sharia, Jamaat-ud-Dawah Pakistan and another of Saalsi Sharai Adalat-i-Aalia (Arbitration Court of Shariah).
Some people have approached the JuD court in the hope of “swift solutions” as litigation in conventional courts takes more time.
JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid defends the functioning of the Shariah court, saying it was not a parallel system.
“It is an arbitration court, which decides disputes with the consent of the parties,” he said. Disputes are resolved in line with Islamic laws and offering arbitration is not illegal, he said.
In one case regarding a monetary dispute between two property developers, the JuD court issued summons to a defendant who did not appear before the qazi. Instead, the defendant wrote letters to judicial and executive authorities, including Pakistan’s chief justice and prime minister, and complained about the unconstitutional summons.
Pakistan Bar Council member Azam Nazir Tarar said the Constitution does not allow any private organisation to use the word “court”. He said, “This is (a) parallel judicial system and against the law of the land.”