The framing of charges against Hafiz Saeed by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore is the direct result of actions that the international anti-terror watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, has taken and further threatens to take against Pakistan if it does not crack down on terror. Pakistan is on the FATF “grey list”, and even if it is never moved to the blacklist, the possibility is dire. A blacklisting by the FATF, an organisation de facto run by the US Treasury department, would be ruinous for Pakistan. This is why it is now seen to be taking action it previously dragged its feet on — acting against terrorist groups with an address in the country, including the head of the Lashkar-e-Toiba/Jamat ud Dawa, found responsible by that country’s own investigators for planning and carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The Pakistan military has used these groups as a hedge in the region. Neither the impact of the Mumbai attack, nor the UN designation of Hafiz Saeed, could convince the Pakistan security establishment to treat him accordingly. Instead, his public stock was allowed to grow to a point where, last year, he could float a political party and field candidates in the general election. The farthest Pakistan went on Hafiz Saeed’s terrorist record before being hit by the FATF was to put him under house arrest every now and then, until the courts freed him.
Saeed’s present troubles date back five months, to a time when the FATF was snapping at Pakistan’s heels for compliance on its commitments made a year earlier. On July 3, Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department booked Saeed and a dozen other leaders under terror financing and money-laundering clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997. The JuD was accused of financing terrorism through several of its non-profit organisations and trusts, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. Saeed, now, has to appear at a trial that will be held everyday. Significantly, LeT also went quiet in the Kashmir Valley at about the same time.
It is important for India that the FATF stays the course with Pakistan because it is the only body that has had a demonstrable effect on the country’s approach to terror groups based on its soil. Saeed or the LeT/JuD are not the only terrorist entities across the border that have India in their crosshairs. Eventually, the action Pakistan takes against these groups will be judged by the impact it has in the region.