ATC summons Hafiz Saeed for closing statements in two terror financing cases

Published January 9, 2020
Saeed has been summoned to appear before the court on Friday. — AFP/File
Saeed has been summoned to appear before the court on Friday. — AFP/File

An Anti-Terrorism Court has summoned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed to record his closing statement on Friday after it wrapped up the trial of two terror financing cases against him.

Trials of both the cases against the JuD leader wrapped up on Thursday. The cases, heard by ATC judge Malik Arshad Bhutt, were registered by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) over charges of accumulating illegal funding.

Deputy Prosecutor General Abdul Rauf Wattu represented the state in the case where statements of 23 witnesses were recorded.

On December 11, 2019, Saeed and four other JuD leaders were indicted by the court, six months after they were booked for offences pertaining to terror financing.

The JuD leaders denied the allegations against them as being baseless and a result of international pressure on the Pakistan government. They claimed that they have been charged in the cases by wrongly attributing them as leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

They pleaded that it was an admitted fact, supported by the superior courts’ decisions, that they had already quit the LeT before the organisation was proscribed in 2002. They argued that the cases against them had been registered on the basis of a link to the defunct Al-Nifal Trust which, they claim, was formed to construct mosques in the country. They said the CTD registered cases without any substantive evidence.

Financing terror

On July 3, 2019, 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, 2019, 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 2019, 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 2019, 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.

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