LAHORE: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed the arrest of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in a terror financing case.

The timing of his arrest is significant ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to the United States.

Welcoming the arrest, President 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!”

Hafiz Saeed was taken into custody by a Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) team at a toll plaza, about 50km from Lahore, when he was travelling to the Gujranwala anti-terrorism court (ATC) in the morning to secure pre-arrest bail in the case registered against him. The CTD produced him before the Gujranwala ATC which sent him to jail on a seven-day judicial remand.

JuD chief sent to jail on seven-day judicial remand

Six suspects — Hafiz Saeed, Mohammad Ali of Malikwal, Abdul Ghaffar of Okara, Hafiz Masood of Johar Town (Lahore), Ameer Hamza of Al Faisal Town and Malik Zafar Iqbal of Sheikhupura — were nominated in the FIR registered against them on July 1 on a complaint of the CTD.

The CTD accused Mohammad Ali of providing an 18-marla piece of land to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) despite knowing that the organisation had been declared a terrorist outfit and might use it for anti-state activities. It mentioned Hafiz Saeed as emir of LeT in the FIR.

A senior official told Dawn that when the CTD personnel surrounded Mr Saeed’s vehicle and informed him about the purpose of intercepting him, he offered no resistance and surrendered himself before the team. They took the firebrand cleric to an unspecified place in their vehicle from where he was driven to the Gujranwala ATC.

In reply to a question, the official said the CTD had also mentioned the arrest of Hafiz Saeed in three other cases registered against him in Sahiwal (two cases) and Multan.

He said Pakistan had been facing tremendous pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to act against banned organisations allegedly involved in terror financing and money laundering. Recently, he added, the FATF gave a deadline of October this year for curbing such networks to avoid sanctions.

Prior to the arrest, the CTD officials briefed Punjab Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan on the progress in investigations in connection with the FIR registered against Hafiz Saeed in Gujranwala on charges of terror financing and money laundering. According to the official, the investigation officer of the case informed the IGP that the CTD wanted to arrest him in the case registered against him in Gujranwala. After discussion, the IG allowed them to take action as per law.

A spokesperson for the CTD also confirmed the arrest of Hafiz Saeed and said action had been taken in the case registered against him with the CTD police station in Gujranwala.

He said the Gujranwala ATC directed the CTD to complete investigation and submit a charge sheet against Hafiz Saeed who would face trial in the same court.

Top 13 leaders of the banned JuD, including its chief Hafiz Saeed and naib emir Abdul Rehman Makki, were booked in 23 cases relating to terror financing and money laundering registered at CTD police stations in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Sahiwal, Faisalabad and Sargodha on July 1 and 2.

The CTD accused the JuD of financing terrorism from the massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc.

On Monday, the Lahore ATC had granted Hafiz Saeed and his three aides bail in illegal use of land for his seminary.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2019