ISLAMABAD: As Pakistani officials ticked items off their to-do list for submission of report to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the implementation of the action plan for getting out of its ‘grey-list’, something that strengthened their case was the conviction and sentencing of top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Sajid Majeed Mir.

Mir, 44, who allegedly directed the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was sentenced by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, in the first week of this month, to 15 and a half years in jail after convicting him in a terror financing case. He was also fined Rs420,000. He is currently serving sentence in Kot Lakhpat jail, according to a source.

It all happened so quietly that no one came to know about such an important court verdict in such a high-profile case, except for a very brief report in one of the newspapers, which too could not attract attention. His detention, which apparently took place in later part of April, was also kept away from media’s prying eyes.

Pakistani authorities, it should be recalled, had in the past claimed he had died, but Western countries remained unconvinced and demanded proofs of his death. This issue rather became a major sticking point in FATF’s assessment of Pakistan’s progress on the action plan late last year. This was where things finally started moving in Mir’s case leading to his ‘arrest’.

His conviction and sentencing were, therefore, major achievements that Pakistani officials showcased in their progress report given to FATF on its action plan during the latest plenary.

It indeed helped in convincing FATF members that Pakistan had finished all the required tasks.

Weak prosecution and poor conviction rate of terrorists were major shortcomings that had all along hampered Pakistan’s exit from the grey list.

According to FATF’s June 2022 plenary outcomes, Pakistan had shown “an upward trend” in investigation and prosecution of money laundering cases, besides demonstrating that terror financing cases against senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups were being pursued seriously.

The watchdog finally concluded that Pakistan had “substantially completed” the two action plans, covering 34 items, and ordered an on-site visit by a technical team for verifying the implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, and ensuring that they were being sustained and backed by necessary political commitment.

Who is Sajid Mir?

Lahore-born Mir is mostly known for his alleged role in planning and executing the Mumbai attacks that left 166, including 26 foreigners, dead and brought the two nuclear armed neighbours to the brink of war. He allegedly had directed the attackers from Lahore during the siege in Mumbai.

He is claimed to have spent two years carrying out reconnaissance and scouting targets in Mumbai. He reportedly did this with the help of David Coleman Headley – the American terrorist, who is currently serving a 35 years sentence in the US for his involvement in international terrorism.

Mir’s association with LeT and Hafiz Saeed dates back to 1994, when he was just 16. He then rose in the terrorist outfit’s ranks and became associated with its international operations wing.

Reports show that he remained the deputy chief of LeT’s international operations, but others suggest that he even at some point led that unit. He is said to have enjoyed direct access to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was the chief of all terrorism operations.

Experts say he also got linked up with Al-Qaeda while conducting international operations.

He had in 2005 secretly toured India, where he went as a cricket fan to watch a match between the cricket teams of the two countries. On that occasion he remained in India for about 15 days.

Mir’s name started featuring on the international terrorism landscape as early as 2002, when he attempted to make large military equipment purchases from the US with the help of his Virginia-based accomplices. However, that project came to an end when the FBI arrested 11 people in what became to be known as ‘Virginia Paintball Jihadi’ case. Ten of them were jailed.

He later turned towards Australia. In 2003 he planned attacks in Australia with the help of a French national, Willie Brigitte, and an Australian, Faheem Khalid Lodhi, for Australian troops presence in Afghanistan.

Lodhi was convicted by an Australian court in June 2006 of planning acts of terrorism and handed down 20 years in prison, while Brigitte, who was deported to France in 2003, was convicted by a French court to nine years in jail.

He then started on Mumbai project. Later in 2009, Mir collaborated with Headley on an aborted plan to attack a newspaper office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2022

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