KARACHI: The Sindh home department has notified two more antiterrorism courts (ATCs) to exclusively try suspects involved in terror financing cases — either in their individual capacity or on behalf of banned religious outfits, it emerged on Monday.

With the addition of two new ATCs, the number of such special courts to conduct trials in cases related to generating funds, money laundering and financing terrorism has jumped to four, as two ATCs were already notified in December 2019.

Judicial sources told Dawn that the provincial government’s move came as a follow-up to the federal government’s stepped-up action plan which was devised after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) expressed concerns to ensure compliance by Pakistan related to implementation of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws.

“In continuation of the department’s notification of even number dated 11-12-2019 as well as in exercise of powers conferred under Section 12(2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and in consultation with the Chief Justice, High Court of Sindh, the Government of Sindh is pleased to make a declaration that the following Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC-I and ATC-XII) at Karachi, in addition to the courts already notified on 11-12-2019 try the cases relating to the Terror Financing, on day-to-day basis, with immediate effect, till further order,” stated an April 23 notification issued by the home department.

In December last, the home department had notified two ATCs (ATC-II and ATC-XVI) both functioning in Karachi to conduct trials in the terror financing cases on a day-to-day basis with immediate effect and till further orders.

The move is part of the federal govt’s action plan devised to address FATF concerns

“Increasing the number of the courts suggests that either more cases have been lodged or will be made as a result of enhanced action to curb such crimes,” prosecution officials opined.

The department had identified around 22 cases pending before ATCs in Karachi, Hyderabad and Khairpur for a long time without any positive progress on the part of prosecuting agencies and transferred the same to the ATC-II and ATC-XVI.

The home department’s Dec 2019 notification had stated: “The above Courts (ATC-II and XVI) shall proceed with such cases from the stage at which it was pending at that time without the necessity of recalling any witness.”

Figures obtained by Dawn in 2019 had revealed that detained accused persons and their alleged absconding accomplices allegedly belonged to militant Islamic State group, Sipah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jamaatud Dawa and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation.

The suspects and their fleeing accomplices booked in some other cases allegedly belonged to the Jamaat-i-Islami, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London and Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz.

Currently, around 40 cases against banned outfits or people allegedly associated, involved in collection funds and laundering money to fund terrorism-related activities are pending before the two already notified courts.

Around 20 cases are pending trial each before the ATC-XVI and ATC-II.

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) had booked and detained the suspects belonging to banned religious outfits, religio-political and nationalist groups on charges of financing terrorist activities through charity collections or kidnapping for ransom.

The judicial sources claimed that poor prosecution and investigation led to the acquittals in most of the cases.

For example, they said, the ATC-II had decided around 10 cases.

They estimated that the suspects in some six cases were acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence and other legal loopholes, etc.

The sources maintained that one case led to the conviction of the accused, who had pleaded guilty. Some three cases were kept on dormant file due to want of the accused, as the prosecuting agencies had booked unknown men in the FIRs.

The sources further said that the ATC-XVI had decided four to five cases, wherein the nominated suspects were exonerated from charges.

Around two cases led to the conviction of the accused persons.

It included a case against Al Qaeda militants Mukhtiar Ahmed, Roohullah, Naeem alias Ali and Akbar, who were arrested by the CTD in February.

The prosecution had claimed recovery of Rs10.15 million allegedly generated by them through kidnapping for ransom, which was meant for its illegal transfer abroad through hawala/hundi.

The second case led to the conviction of Abdul Hakeem, reportedly associated with Al Qaeda, who was handed down five-year imprisonment for terror financing.

The prosecution claimed that the accused had facilitated Al Qaeda operative Khalid Mukashi by giving him Rs250,000.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2020