Hafiz Saeed’s indictment in terror financing case delayed as officials fail to produce co-accused

Hafiz Saeed’s indictment in terror financing case delayed as officials fail to produce co-accused

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ISLAMABAD: Hafiz Saeed, the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind, could not be indicted by the Lahore-based anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Saturday as authorities failed to produce the other co-accused for the hearing of the case related to money laundering and terror financing.
Saeed was brought to the court from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in tight security. The absence of Malik Zafar Iqbal, the co-accused, prompted the court to adjourn the proceedings till December 11. ATC judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta directed the authorities to ensure Iqbal’s presence in court for next hearing and gave December 11 as new date for indictment of the accused. Last week, the ATC had fixed December 7 as date for framing charges against Saeed and others.
Like previous hearings, authorities barred journalists from covering Saturday’s proceedings, citing security reasons.
On July 3, Saeed and 12 other top leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) were booked in 23 cases for terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.
The counter-terrorism department (CTD), which registered the cases in five cities of Punjab, declared that JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), the Saeed-led charities that act as front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were financing terrorism from the massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust.
The CTD had banned these non-profit organisations in April after finding during investigations that they had links with JuD and its top leadership.
Subsequently, the CTD had arrested Saeed from Gujranwala on terror financing charges on July 17 and sent him to jail on judicial remand after presenting him in court.
The action against Saeed was described by officials and observers as a renewed effort by Pakistan to comply with the commitments given to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international terrorism-financing watchdog, to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Last February, the government had announced a ban on JuD and FIF to partially address the concerns raised by India that Pakistan was supporting Saeed’s outfits and six similar organisations, including Maulana Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
Over the next few weeks, law enforcement agencies had intensified 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.
Quarterly assessments by the FATF of Pakistan’s progress continued over the course of the year.
In the latest FATF review held in October, it was found that Pakistan will have to take extra measures for complete elimination of terror financing and money laundering. A reprieve till February 2020 has been given. Till that time, Pakistan will remain on the task force’s grey list.
The FATF had put Pakistan on its grey list in June 2018 for the second time. Previously, the country was placed on grey list in 2012 and remained on it till 2015.
This time Pakistan was given implementation of the 27-point action plan, with a warning that in case of failure, the country would be added to the blacklist — a list of the countries branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.
India and the US accuse Pakistan’s military of continuing to nurture extremist groups as proxies against neighboring countries. Publicly, Pakistani officials insist that the country has changed its narrative and no longer believes to achieve its goals through proxies. But a lot of skepticism still prevails about such claims, given Islamabad’s record of making similar promises in the past that remained unfulfilled.

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