Chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs Alice Wells on Thursday hailed the conviction of Jamatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed and his aide Malik Zafar Iqbal as a “step forward” for Pakistan.
A day earlier, an anti-terrorism court convicted the two JuD leaders to five-and-a-half-years of rigorous imprisonment (RI) in two cases relating to terror financing. The verdict came days ahead of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) meeting in Paris to decide Pakistan’s grey list fate.
Wells, in a tweet by the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs early Thursday, said that the conviction was a step forward, “both toward holding the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) accountable for its crimes and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing”.
Jailed for terror financing
ATC-I presiding judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta convicted both the JuD leaders under Section 11-N of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and sentenced them to five years RI with a fine of Rs10,000 each and six months RI under Section 11-F (2) of the Act with a fine of Rs5,000.
The ATC judge observed that in addition to evidence presented by the prosecution, both accused also admitted the ownership of the property by Tanzeem Markaz Dawatul Irshad, a proscribed organisation.
“Careful scanning of Section 11-F (1) of ATA 1997 reflects that a person is guilty of an offence if he belongs to a proscribed organisation and it is not mentioned in the said section that the said membership is post-proscription or pre-proscription and in this case … it is established by the prosecution that accused Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Malik Zafar Iqbal belong to proscribed organisation[s] Jamaatud Dawa and Tanzeem Markaz Dawatul Irshad,” observed the judge.
He said it had been established on record that the property in question was in the name of Dawatul Irshad and the same remained in possession of the accused persons being trustees.
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 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.
According to the CTD, JuD was financing terrorism from the massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc. These non-profit organisations were banned in April last year as the CTD, during detailed investigations, found that they had links with the JuD and its top leadership.
The crackdown on JuD last year followed a warning by Paris-based FATF to Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering.
The government had announced a ban on JuD and Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation (FIF) to partially address the concerns raised by India that Pakistan supported these and six similar organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) or at least considered them low-risk entities.
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.
Saeed, who in November 2018 was set free from a 300-day-long house arrest, has been repeatedly accused by the US and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital that killed 166 people.
Saeed was declared a global terrorist by the US and UN over his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks. JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for LeT, the militant group blamed for the attacks.
In October of last year, FATF announced that Pakistan would remain on its grey list for the next four months, handing it a final lifeline after acknowledging recent improvements.