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A Pakistan anti-terrorism court has jailed for 11 years the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Pakistan based terrorist groups, Jamaat-ud-Da’wah (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). He was jailed on two charges of terror financing. Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had registered 23 FIRs against Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of terror financing in different cities of Punjab province.
“Hafiz Saeed and his close aide Zafar Iqbal have been sentenced in two cases of terrorism financing,” Pakistan government prosecutor Abdul Rauf Watto said. “The total punishment in both the cases was 11 years but Saeed will serve five-and-a-half years in jail as the two punishments will run concurrently,” Saeed’s lawyer Imran Gill meanwhile has said. “We will appeal against the verdict,”
India said, “Pakistan’s sentencing the UN-designated and internationally proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed in a terror financing case, is part of the long-pending international obligation of Pakistan to put an end to support for terrorism.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs noted, “The decision has been made on the eve of FATF Plenary meeting. Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen. It has also to be seen whether Pakistan would take action against other all terrorist entities and individuals operating from territories under its control and bring perpetrators of cross border terrorist attacks, including in Mumbai and Pathankot to justice expeditiously.”
This token move of arresting Saeed is expected to bolster Pakistan’s argument that Islamabad has made serious efforts to book terrorist groups. The crucial meet of the Paris-based global financial watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is taking place next week. The FATF meeting is supposed to deliberate on ‘blacklisting’ Pakistan over its failure to curb terror financing.
Pakistan is already on the FATF’s so-called ‘grey list’. Islamabad has come under increasing pressure to take strong action on financing of terror groups. The ‘blacklisting’ could result in very tough financial and banking restrictions, this could have severe consequences on Pakistan’s already crippled economy.
The FATF at its next meeting, needs to consider Saeed’s sentencing and whether that is enough to remove Pakistan from the grey list and place it with other countries in the FATF’s white list
According to analysts, Pakistan has not been placed on the black list because of support from China, Malaysia and Turkey. To move out of the grey list, however, Islamabad needs the support of at least 12 of the 39 countries in the FATF.
Saeed’s sentencing also came just ahead of the announcement of President Trump’s India visit later this month. The US President has been very critical of Pakistan’s efforts in curbing terrorism. However, the US, which is looking for a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, needs Pakistan’s support at this crucial juncture. It is well known that the Taliban and the Pakistani military establishment enjoy a cosy relationship.
In the latest FATF meeting in Beijing, Pakistan had put forward the steps it had taken to fight terror. This move had found support from China, Malaysia, and Turkey. Washington too, did not question Pakistan’s progress report. In yet another FATF meeting held in Paris last October, Pakistan had failed to comply with 22 out of the 27 parameters that it was supposed to act upon. Islamabad was censured in that meet and the global anti-terror financing body had said that it could be blacklisted in February, if Pakistan failed to curb the flow of funds to terrorist groups.
Pakistan has been obfuscating facts before the international community for long. Even though Pakistan has been on FATF’s ‘grey list’ it has continued with its support to terror groups. It should be noted that just a year ago, forty Indian soldiers were martyred in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir by terrorists operating from across India’s western borders. This had led to severe escalation.
The global community needs to play a positive role in chastising Islamabad over its’ policy of using terror as a policy tool. Therefore, the role of countries such as US, UK, France and Australia would be critical in the forthcoming FATF meet.
Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst