On 12 February 2020, the anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced Mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks, Hafiz Saeed of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) to 11 years in prison in terrorist financing cases. Saeed was also the Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a violent Islamist terrorist group based in Pakistan.
A court official confirmed to the Press Trust of India (PTI) that Saeed had been sentenced in two terrorist financing cases in the province of Punjab.
On 11 December, 2019, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) indicted Saeed and his close assistants in the case of terrorist financing in a daily hearing.
Saeed was charged in December, 2019 with six charges under anti-terrorism legislation, with verdicts still due in four cases.
The court also granted him the benefit of Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure (reduction of prison sentences). Malik Zafar Iqbal, Secretary of the Al-Anfaal Trust, has also been convicted in the same cases and has received similar punishment.
They have been convicted under Section 11-F (2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act— in relation to membership, support and meetings of the proscribed organization — and Section 11-N (punishment under Sections 11-H to 11-K).
Section 11H relates to fundraising for the purpose of terrorism, 11-I is about the use and possession of money or other property for terrorism, 11-J relates to funding arrangements which result in money being made available for terrorism, while 11-K relates to money laundering.
The 70-year-old claims he's not related to any armed group, even though he heads JuD, the charitable arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Both JuD and LeT are "banned groups" under Pakistani anti-terrorism rule.
Saeed's arrest comes days before the main meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body that regulates laws on terrorism and criminal financing, in Paris.
The FATF must make a decision as to whether Pakistan has taken appropriate steps to avoid being "blacklisted," a label that would be a blow to the struggling economy of the South Asian country.
On Wednesday, the United States welcomed Pakistan's jailing of the suspected Mumbai blast mastermind and Jamaat ud Dawa Chief Hafiz Saeed, long sought by both Washington and India.
"The prosecution of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward-both to keep LeT accountable for its crimes and to Pakistan for upholding its international commitments to fight terrorist financing," tweeted Alice Wells, South Asia's top US diplomat.
The FATF will begin its plenary session on 16 February, 2020 and consider whether Pakistan has done enough to be withdrawn from the grey list of countries whose activities are being monitored for suspicion of diversion of funds to terrorist groups or transfers it to the black list for lack of credible action in curbing terrorism. So far, Pakistan has avoided the blacklist, because of the fact that it has the support of countries like China, Malaysia and Turkey.
Saeed was suspected to be a part of two major terror attacks in India. One took place in 2008 in Mumbai, where 166 people were killed over a 60-hour period when 10 Pakistani LeT terrorist operatives held India's financial capital to ransom. While, the second one was a 2016 terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force station in India.
Considering that Saeed's conviction was based on his record of funding terrorist groups, while he still remains to be convicted under other charges filed in certain ongoing cases, the Central Government of Indiaisnot satisfied with Pakistan's verdict.
India has been asking Pakistan to put the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice for many years. Islamabad had made some arrests and detained seven people in 2009, but later released them, citing the reason of lack of evidence. Saeed whom India considers the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks has been detained by Pakistan many times and let off citing lack of proof against him.
Saeed’s sentencing is part of “long pending international obligation of Pakistan to put an end to support for terrorism," India said on Thursday.
Author: Harneet Singh