Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed said on Thursday that he wasn’t worried about the government freezing Jamaat-ud-dawa’s (JuD's) bank accounts, even as the country’s Supreme Court asked the government to announce the names of all banned outfits for the benefit of the public.
Pakistan said on Thursday it had frozen bank accounts of the JuD, the first indication that Islamabad was moving towards banning the outfit amid international pressure to crack down on terror groups operating in the country.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said action was taken against groups on a list of organisations banned by the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee. Aslam confirmed the JuD figured in the UN list.
"Assets of all banned outfits have been frozen," she said.
The move comes roughly a month after Taliban gunmen massacred over 130 schoolchildren in a Peshawar school, prompting the United States and other countries to ask Pakistan to stop differentiating between good and bad terrorists.
Aslam said the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network had also been banned and added the organisation didn’t have any bank accounts in Pakistan. The Haqqani network has been involved in several deadly attacks in Afghanistan, including the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul in 2008 that left 58 people dead.
Hafiz Saeed, the 64-year-old founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) accused Islamabad of trying to please its masters in the West and India and said the JuD wasn’t a terrorist organisation. “We will continue to do our work. Let them try and stop us,” he said.
Earlier this week, interior ministry officials said the JuD was among organisations to be officially banned as part of Pakistan’s National Action Plan to fight terrorism. Its welfare wing, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation – already banned by the US – was also on the list.
The UN Security Council designated the JuD a front for the banned LeT after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. The group is banned by the US, the European Union, India and Russia as a terror organisation.
But Saeed, who founded the LeT in the 1990s, operates openly in Pakistan and leads a high-profile life despite a $10-million US bounty.
He regularly appears on TV and addresses large public gatherings, delivering inflammatory speeches against India and the US.
Pakistan, however, says there is no case against Saeed with ministers often calling the JuD a charitable organisation with no terror links.
Islamabad took an in-principle decision to outlaw the JuD and the Haqqani network last week but a public announcement was delayed as prime minister Nawaz Sharif was in Saudi Arabia.
The decision to freeze bank accounts of terror outfits came after a statement by US secretary of state John Kerry last week asking Pakistan to fight the LeT as well as other terror groups and show tangible results in its counter-terrorism operations for continued American funding.
Aslam, however, denied any American pressure. "Pakistan took this decision under the United Nations obligation and not under pressure from any other quarter, including Kerry,” Aslam said.
Islamabad’s move comes three days before US President Barack Obama lands in New Delhi as the chief guest of the Republic Day parade. The US has already warned Pakistan that any terror incidents during the three-day visit will have serious consequences.
Ten more organisations including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban were also placed on the list. The government also banned the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, accused of terror attacks in Pakistan and the Harkat-ul-Mujahidin that allegedly operates an extremist ring in Kashmir.
Officials said banning an organisation hardly helps because they keep resurfacing under different names. Around 23 outlawed organisations are functioning under different pseudonyms, such as the Jaish-e-Muhammad which operates as the Khuddam-e-Islam or the Al Rahmat Trust. Analysts say there is no legal framework to clamp down on activities of allied organisations.
(With inputs from agencies)