New Delhi: A UN Security Council (UNSC) committee has approved Pakistan’s request to let Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, use his bank account for meeting “basic expenses".
Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist, has a $10 million bounty on his head announced by the US in 2012 for “any information leading to the arrest and conviction".
India says Saeed is the main plotter behind the 2008 strike in Mumbai that killed more than 166 people, including six Americans. India has been repeatedly asking Pakistan to bring Saeed and others involved in the 2008 attacks to justice.
The timing of the UNSC move gains significance, as it comes amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly session along with foreign minister S. Jaishankar. India’s foreign ministry was yet to react to this development, which raised questions about whether New Delhi was aware of the Pakistani move and, if it was, why it did not object to it through friendly countries in the sanctions committee.
“The chair has the honour to refer to his draft letter to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan communicating the committee’s decision with respect to the intention of the Pakistani authorities to authorise certain expenditures to the benefit of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, and Zafar Iqbal, to cover basic expenses as specified in the note verbale of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan...," said the 1267 Sanctions Committee note. The committee deals with terror groups such as the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities.
Curiously, the note also states that there were no objections from the committee members or any other UN member to the Pakistani request to let Saeed access his bank account. It is surprising that no one raised objections to the Pakistani move, given that countries such as the US and Germany lost nationals in the 2008 attack, said analysts.
Pakistan would have had to circulate a note on lifting the freeze on Saeed’s bank accounts at least a month in advance for members of the 1267 Sanctions Committee, whose composition is the same as the UN Security Council, to consult with their capitals on what stance to take on the move, according to people familiar with the procedure followed by the panel.
Saeed’s bank accounts were frozen by the Pakistani government to comply with UNSC resolutions as he is a UN-designated global terrorist. Pakistan had requested the UN to let Saeed withdraw 150,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $1,000) to cover necessary basic living expenses for him and his family.
“Pakistan seems to have successfully gamed the 1267 Sanctions Committee. By making this request, they have made it out to be that all sources of finance for Saeed have dried up thanks to compliance with the (Paris-based) Financial Action Task Force requirements," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “The Pakistanis have made it appear that this is a humanitarian gesture for support to Saeed’s family. This is most awkward for India that its most wanted terrorist is being molly coddled by the UNSC that labelled Saeed a terrorist."