ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani authorities opened a probe Thursday into reports that a charity run by the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba has established an Islamic court, separate from the regular judiciary in the eastern city of Lahore.
Legal experts say such a Taliban-style system is illegal and unconstitutional. It is extremely rare in Pakistan's heartland but in the lawless northwestern tribal regions along the Afghan border, the Taliban have been running courts that abide by Islamic law, or Sharia where they would conduct summary trials.
Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for the charity known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denied the court was a parallel judicial system, saying it worked as an arbitration service, with the consent of two rival parties to settle disputes. He said religious scholars, guided by Shariah, make the decisions.
Pakistani Dawn newspaper first reported on the Islamic court. Zaeem Qadri, a spokesman for the Punjab province where Lahore is the capital, said an investigation was underway and that the government was not aware previously that Jamaat-ud-Dawa had established such a court.
A real estate agent in Lahore, Khalid Saeed, said he received summons from the Islamic court in Lahore and provided a copy of the document to The Associated Press. Jamaat-ud-Dawa denied it issued the summons.
Saeed said the summons threatened the court would take action against him in case of noncompliance under Islamic law. The document introduced the council as Shariah Supreme Court and carried a stamp from an Islamic judge.
He said he didn't appear because his case was already pending in a civil court.
"I started receiving calls from someone that the case has been decided against me," he told the AP. "The caller told me to deposit nearly 10 million rupees ($100,000) with the court."
Jamaat-ud-Dawa denied it made the calls.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is suspected of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was set up with the aid of Pakistani intelligence to fight in the disputed region of Kashmir. The government has officially banned the group but has done little to crack down on it.