An anti-terrorism court in Lahore on Wednesday indicted Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the proscribed Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), and four other JuD leaders who were booked in July for offences pertaining to terror financing.
Saeed, along with the others, was presented before the court today under strict security protocol.
During the proceedings, Saeed's lawyer presented arguments against the indictment.
After filing charges, the court summoned the prosecution's witnesses. ATC-I judge Malik Arshad Bhutta, who heard the case, adjourned proceedings until tomorrow.
On Saturday, the court had delayed the indictment owing to unavailability of one of the suspects in a case registered by the Counterterrorism Department (CTD) on charges of terror financing.
The JuD leaders deny allegations against them as being baseless and a result of international pressure on the Pakistan government. They claim that they have been charged in cases by wrongly attributing them as leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
They plead it was an admitted fact supported by superior courts’ decisions that they had already quit the LeT before the organisation was proscribed in 2002. They argue the cases against them have been made on the basis of a link to defunct Al-Nifal Trust which, they claim, was formed to construct mosques in the country. They say the CTD registered cases without any substantive evidence.
On July 3, the top 13 leaders of the JuD were booked in nearly two dozen cases pertaining to terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.
The CTD, which registered the cases in five cities of Punjab, declared that the JuD was 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.
These non-profit organisations were banned in April as the CTD, during detailed investigations, found that they had links with the JuD and its top leadership.
Subsequently, on July 17, Saeed was arrested from Gujranwala on charges of terror financing by the Punjab CTD. He was sent to prison on judicial remand after the CTD presented him before a Gujranwala ATC.
Pakistan warned to curb terror financing
In February, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had warned Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Risks to the global financial system virtually put the country’s entire machinery into an aggressive mode to show tangible progress within two months of the warning.
In late February, the government announced a ban on JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation to partially address the concerns raised by India that Pakistan supported these and six similar organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), or at least considered them low-risk entities.
Law enforcement agencies over the next few weeks intensified their crackdown on JeM, JuD, FIF and other banned outfits, and arrested more than 100 activists. Nearly 200 seminaries besides hundreds of other facilities and assets associated with them across the country were taken over by the government.
Quarterly assessments by the FATF of Pakistan's progress continued over the course of the year.
In the latest FATF review held in October, it was found that while Pakistan has made significant improvements, it will have to take "extra measures" for "complete" elimination of terror financing and money laundering. A reprieve until February 2020 has been given until when Pakistan will remain on the task force's "grey list".
In 2012, Pakistan was placed on the grey list and remained on it till 2015. The country was put on the list again on June 29, 2018. Pakistan was given 15 months for implementation of the 27-point action plan, with a warning that in case of failure the country would be added to the blacklist — a list of the countries branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.
Currently, only Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist.