Pakistani authorities opened a probe into reports that a charity run by an armed group had established an Islamic court separate from the regular judiciary in the eastern city of Lahore.

Zaeem Qadri, a spokesman for Punjab's provincial government, was quoted as saying in the Dawn newspaper on Thursday that an investigation was under way as authorities had not been aware that Lashkar-e-Taiba's charitable wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had created such a court in the city. 

Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Jamaat, 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 Islamic scholars make the decisions.

A real estate agent in Lahore, Khalid Saeed, said he received a summons from the court that threatened it would take action against him in case of noncompliance under Islamic law.

"I started receiving calls from someone that the case has been decided against me," Saeed told The Associated Press. "The caller told me to deposit nearly 10 million rupees [$100,000] with the court."

The document introduced the council as the Shariah Supreme Court and carried a stamp from a judge assigned by the group. Jamaat denied it issued the summons.

Legal analysts say such a system is illegal and unconstitutional. However, in Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions along the Afghan border the Taliban has operated such courts.

Lashkar, which has been accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai 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.

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Source: Agencies