The decision is finally in. Hafiz Saeed will be going to jail. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has sentenced the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) head to five and a half years in prison on each of two charges relating to terror-financing. He was also fined the less remarkable amounts of Rs15,000 in each case. One of his close aides also received the same sentences on the same charges. However, the time already served under house arrest will also be counted towards that prison term under Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Even then, the conviction provides heartening proof of Pakistan’s commitment to prosecuting terrorists and their facilitators.
Although some critics, especially those across the border in India, will try to accuse Pakistan of not going after Saeed on more serious charges, the fact remains that the cases that were built against Saeed were strong. Meanwhile, cases involving more serious charges have proven harder to make, in no small part due to India’s refusal to cooperate with Pakistan in building them.
The two charges against Saeed were under section 11-F(2) and 11-N of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which relate to membership of a proscribed organisation and fundraising and money-laundering for the purpose of terrorism, respectively. The ruling is also proof that JuD was financing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist activities using funds collected through various charity fronts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. Most of these charities were banned in April last year after the Counter-Terrorism Department’s investigations established their links with Saeed and his comrades.
The investigations were at least partly prompted by Pakistan’s grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failure to combat terror financing. Soon after the FATF decision, Pakistan banned JuD and its Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation charity to partially address the international body’s concerns. Around 200 seminaries and hundreds of other assets associated with JuD and its linked groups were also seized. It was the first time the startling size of the terrorist outfit became widely known. We can only hope that others are never allowed to grow this way.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2020.