US welcomes arrest of LeT leaders

Updated October 14, 2019

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Law enforcement agencies on Thursday had announced that "top four leaders" of LeT had been arrested. — AFP/File
Law enforcement agencies on Thursday had announced that "top four leaders" of LeT had been arrested. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States has welcomed Pakistan’s decision to arrest four leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, indicating that such moves would help improve relations between the two countries.

“We welcome news that Pakistan arrested four LeT leaders,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells. “The victims of LeT’s vicious attacks deserve to see these individuals prosecuted now.”

But in the same tweet, Ms Wells also added the name of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to the list of people Washington wants punished for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities.

In another tweet, also released on Saturday afternoon, Ms Wells referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent pledge to combat terrorism. “As Imran Khan has said, Pakistan, for its own future, must prevent militant groups from operating on its soil,” she wrote.

Law enforcement agencies announced on Thursday that they have arrested “top four leaders” of the banned LeT group on charges of terrorism financing, a move they said would put the “entire core leadership” of this outfit on trial.

Later, media reports identified the four leaders as Professor Zafar Iqbal, Yahya Aziz, Mohammad Ashraf and Abdul Salam.

“LeT chief Hafiz Saeed is already in prison facing trial for commission of offences of terrorism financing. Now its entire core leadership will be on trial,” a spokesperson for the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) told reporters in Lahore.

The arrests were announced days before a crucial meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international agency that monitors global financial transactions. The meeting, which began in Paris on Saturday and will continue till Oct 15, will also review Pakistan’s efforts to counter-terrorism financing.

In June, the FATF placed Pakistan on a grey list of countries which need to take immediate steps to stamp out terrorism financing. Since then, Pakistan has taken a number of measures to eradicate this menace, which will now be reviewed at FATF’s Paris meeting.

Pakistan wants to avoid being placed on the FATF blacklist — like Iran and North Korea — as it would invoke severe economic sanctions, which could have a devastating impact on its ailing economy.

The CTD statement said that Pakistani agencies have been investigating allegations that LeT leaders had built assets using the funds raised through terrorism financing.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019