Pakistan is trying to hoodwink the international community with its “cosmetic” steps against terror groups, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday (July 4).
The MEA’s response came after Pakistan claimed that it had “booked” Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed and 12 of his close associates for “terrorism financing” in 23 cases, amidst growing global pressure on Islamabad to act against militant groups launching deadly attacks in India. “Pakistan is trying to hoodwink the international community on taking action against terror groups. Let us not get fooled by cosmetic steps against terror groups by Pakistan,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jama’at-ud Da’wah (JuD) and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks along with 12 of his close aides will be arrested “very soon”, police said on Thursday (July 4), a day after Pakistani authorities booked them for committing multiple offences of terror financing and money laundering.
The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Police on July 3 registered 23 FIRs against 13 leaders of JuD including Saeed on the charges of terror financing in different cities of Punjab province. “The CTD has booked the (13) leaders of JuD and other proscribed organisations on the charges of terror financing. As the FIRs have been registered the suspects will be arrested shortly,” said Punjab police spokesperson Niyab Haider Naqvi.
When asked as why the CTD has not yet arrested Saeed and others despite their nomination in the FIRs, Naqvi said: “First, an FIR is filed against a suspect and then he is arrested. Saeed and others nominated in the FIRs will also be arrested subsequently.” Previously, he said police arrested several members of the banned organisations on terror financing and subsequently they were handed down imprisonment by anti-terrorism courts.
“So these suspects will also be arrested very soon,” Naqvi said.
A source in the Imran Khan government said that the Punjab police are waiting a go-ahead from the “top” to lay hand on Saeed. “Saeed is present at his residence in Lahore’s Jauhar Town and the police are waiting for a green signal from the government to raid his residence to arrest him,” the source said. The source said it is likely that Saeed may be arrested this week as the Khan government appears keen to fulfil its obligations on terror financing under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Pakistan failed to complete its action plan on terror financing on the FATFs deadline in June last. The FATF warned Islamabad to meet its commitment by another deadline of October or face action, which could possibly lead to the country’s blacklisting. The Paris-based global body is working to curb terrorism financing and money laundering and has asked Pakistan to reassess the operation of banned terrorist outfits in the country. In June last year, the FATF placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing. The Anti-Terrorism Courts recently handed down up to five years imprisonment to 12 members of the JuD and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) on the charges of terrorism financing.
On Wednesday, the CTD said it booked Saeed and 12 aides for terror financing in 23 cases after “irrefutable evidence against them was detected. The cases have been registered in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terrorism financing through assets/properties made and held in the names of Trusts/ Non Profit Organisations (NPO) including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawat ul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust among others. It further said that large scale investigation launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations JuD and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in connection with implementation of UN Sanctions against these Designated Entities and Persons as directed by NSC (National Security Committee) in its meeting of January 1, 2019 chaired by prime minister Khan for implementing National Action Plan.
“These suspects made assets from funds of terrorism financing. They held and used these assets to raise more funds for further terrorism financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing and money laundering under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in ATCs (anti-terrorism courts) for commission of these offences,” the CTD said. Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The US declared the LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation in June 2014. The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.
Abdul Rehman Makki (deputy chief of JuD and Saeed’s brother-in-law), MaliK Zafar Iqbal, Ameer Hamza, Muhammad Yahya Aziz, Muhammad Naeem Sh, Mohsin Bilal, Abdul Raqeeb, Ahmad Daud, Muhammad Ayub, Abdullah Ubaid, Muhammad Ali and Abdul Ghaffar are other suspects. Makki is lodged in the Camp Jail, Lahore on the charges of giving hate speech. The other suspects are reported to have been hiding since the government took over over the properties of these organizations. Pakistani authorities in March sealed the Lahore headquarters of JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and detained over 120 suspected militants as part of an ongoing crackdown on banned groups. India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.