Ahead of the six-day session of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force beginning Sunday to decide on Pakistan’s fate on blacklisting, a Lahore anti-terrorism court convicted Mumbai’s 26/11 terror attack mastermind and Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Saeed in two terror-financing cases on Wednesday.
According to court orders reported by Dawn, Saaed has been convicted and sentenced to prison for five and a half years and slapped a fine of Rs 15,000 in each case.
Saeed, who in November 2018 was set free from a 300-day-long house arrest, is considered the mastermind and planner of the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008 which claimed the lives of 166 people. He was declared a global terrorist by the US and UN for his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks. JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for LeT.
The sentences of both cases will run concurrently. The court also granted Saeed the benefit of Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure (reduction of period of sentence of imprisonment). Malik Zafar Iqbal, the secretary of Al-Anfaal Trust, has also been convicted in the same cases and has been awarded similar punishment.
They were convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act Section 11-F(2) — pertaining to membership, support and meetings relating to a proscribed organisation — and 11-N (punishment under Sections 11-H to 11-K).
Section 11-H relates to fundraising for the purpose of terrorism, 11-I is about the use and possession of money or other property for terrorism, 11-J relates to funding arrangements which result in money being made available for terrorism, while 11-K relates to money laundering.
The court directed authorities to keep Saeed under custody until further orders.
While there was no official word from New Delhi on the verdict, New Delhi has not been impressed by Pakistan’s moves in the past. Saeed’s conviction is seen in New Delhi as a move to impress the FATF before a crucial session.
South Block officials doubt Islamabad’s intentions. “Let us not get fooled by cosmetic steps against terror groups by Pakistan,” an official here said.
During the session from February 16 to 21, the global financial watchdog, FATF, is expected to take up Pakistan’s case as it has been on the grey-list since 2018. The Indian effort will be to move it to the black list, if not stay on the grey list. Islamabad wants to get out of the grey list since that impacts its global credit-rating and investor sentiment. Last year, Pakistan was given a relief for four months as it had failed to fulfil its commitments on terrorist financing under the FATF’s charter.
The verdict Wednesday was announced by ATC judge Arshad Hussain Bhatta and Saeed was present in the courtroom.
The JuD chief was found guilty of “being part of a banned terrorist outfit” and for “having illegal property”, his lawyer Imran Gill told AFP. “Hafiz Saeed and another of his close aides have been sentenced in two cases of terrorism financing,” prosecutor Abdul Rauf Watto told Reuters.
The court had reserved its verdicts in the two cases on February 6. Saeed is nominated in multiple cases pertaining to money laundering, terror financing and land grabbing.
“The terror financing cases were filed by the Counter-Terrorism Department’s (CTD) Lahore and Gujranwala chapters. The case filed by CTD’s Gujranwala chapter was initially being heard in a Gujranwala ATC but was shifted to Lahore on the directions of the Lahore High Court. During the trial of both cases, the court recorded the statements of 23 witnesses.
“The JuD chief was arrested by CTD in July last year, while he was travelling from Lahore to Gujranwala. Prior to his arrest, 23 first information reports had been registered against JuD leaders, including Saeed and JuD Naib Emir Abdul Rehman Makki, at CTD police stations of Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad and Sargodha in July 2019,” Dawn reported.
The report said that according to the CTD, JuD was financing terrorism from funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc. These outfits were banned in April last year as the CTD, during detailed investigations, found that they had links with the JuD and its top leadership.
“Law enforcement agencies over the next few weeks had intensified their crackdown on JeM, JuD, FIF and other banned outfits, and arrested more than 100 activists. Nearly 200 seminaries besides hundreds of other facilities and assets associated with them across the country were taken over by the government,” the report said.
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