NEW DELHI :
Hafiz Saeed, the head of Pakistan-based terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been charged with terror financing by a Pakistani court, news reports said on Wednesday. The charges were read out while Saeed was present in the court, government prosecutor Abdur Rauf told news agency Reuters.
The indictment comes ahead of a meeting of global terror funding watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in February. The FATF is expected to decide whether or not to blacklist Pakistan for failing to curb terror financing.
Saeed’s indictment is likely to be seen as a vindication of India’s stand, which sought Saeed’s prosecution for backing terrorist activities against India, as well as for being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which 166 people were killed. New Delhi had demanded that Saeed be brought to justice, but Pakistan was so far being seen as dragging its feet on the matter.
India had said last week that it was aware that Saeed was “roaming freely" and enjoying “Pakistan’s hospitality". India had shared all evidence in this context with Pakistan and it was Islamabad’s responsibility “to take action" against the perpetrators of the attack, foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had then said in New Delhi. Pakistan’s anti-terrorism court then fixed 11 December as the date for framing charges against Saeed and co-accused Malik Zafar Iqbal.
Analysts were, however, unsure that Saeed would be brought to justice given his links with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. “It is doubtful that Pakistani authorities will bring clinching evidence to convict Saeed as that could become self incriminating for the ISI. What Saeed should be tried for is the Mumbai terror attack of 2008 in which Indians and a number of foreign nationals were killed," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.
India shifted its focus to the FATF to pressurize Pakistan to cut terror financing because Islamabad was ignoring New Delhi’s requests, one person familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity. In July, ahead of the FATF’s warning in October that Pakistan had till February to clean up its act, the counter terrorism department of Pakistan’s Punjab police registered 23 first information reports against Saeed and his accomplices on charges of “terror financing" in different cities of Punjab province. He was later arrested and lodged at Kot Lakhpat jail.
Cases were then registered in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terror financing through assets made and held in the names of trusts or non-profit organizations, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. This led to the indictment on Wednesday.