Pak arrests Hafiz Saeed on terror finance allegations
This is the first time the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) has been arrested on specific charges filed by authorities. In the past, he was detained without charge in connection with incidents such as the Mumbai attacks.Updated: Jul 18, 2019 00:06 IST
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder and alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed was on Wednesday arrested by Pakistani security officials on charges of collecting funds for banned terror groups and remanded to judicial custody.
This is the first time the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) has been arrested on specific charges filed by authorities. In the past, he was detained without charge in connection with incidents such as the Mumbai attacks.
The arrest came against the backdrop of pressure on Pakistan from the US and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to crack down on terror and its financing, and days before Prime Minister Imran Khan embarks on a three-day visit to the US during which he will hold talks with President Donald Trump on July 22. Khan will be accompanied by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
Hours after the arrest, Trump tweeted: “After a ten year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him.”
Trump last year cut off all security aid to Pakistan, accusing it of playing a double game in countering terrorists. The US has repeatedly urged Pakistan to crack down on terrorists operating from its soil and deny them access to funds.
Saeed was held by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab province while he was going from Lahore to Gujranwala, where he planned to get pre-arrest bail in connection with a case of terror financing.
“The CTD presented him in the anti-terrorism court Gujranwala for judicial remand. The anti-terrorism court sent him to jail,” the department said in a statement.
“He will face the trial in (the) anti-terrorism court Gujranwala in the said case,” the statement said. The CTD, it added, had been directed to complete the investigation and submit the charge-sheet in the court in the stipulated time. On July 3, the CTD registered 23 cases of terror financing in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan against the leadership of LeT, JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), including Saeed and his brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki. They were accused of using a network of trusts and non-profit organisations to collect funds for terrorism.
The FATF had announced in June that Pakistan had failed to meet two consecutive targets for curbing terror financing and held out the possibility of placing it on its “black list”. The multilateral watchdog placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June last year.
The US has designated Saeed a global terrorist and offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to his conviction over the Mumbai attacks. Despite Trump’s tweet, Syed has never been in hiding and has operated openly in Pakistan over the past few years. Pakistan experts were quick to point to the problem in Trump’s tweet. “Finding him was never an issue,” wrote Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US. “He operated freely and was highly visible. He has been arrested and released many times over.” Saeed was released from house arrest in November 2017, drawing a sharp rebuke and warning from the US, which called for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution. Islamabad disregarded the threat, and Trump announced the suspension of all security-related aid to Pakistan after a few weeks in 2018. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore had on Monday granted pre-arrest bail until August 3 to Saeed and his aides Hafiz Masood, Ameer Hamza, and Malik Zafar against surety bonds of ~50,000 each. This was in another case pertaining to the JuD’s alleged illegal use of land around its seminary.
Also on Monday, the Lahore high court sought replies from Punjab’s interior ministry, home department and CTD in response to a petition by Saeed and seven aides challenging an FIR filed against them on charges of terror financing. Saeed’s counsel referred to a 2009 judgment of the high court that said he was not a member of LeT.
There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials though the external affairs ministry spokesperson said earlier this month that Pakistan should take credible, verifiable and irreversible steps against terrorism instead of resorting to “cosmetic steps”.
First Published: Jul 18, 2019 00:05 IST