Will Hafiz Saeed with close links with Pakistani military stay in jail? « Khabarhub
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Will Hafiz Saeed with close links with Pakistani military stay in jail?

14 February 2020  

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ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Wednesday sentenced Islamist Hafiz Saeed, accused by India and the United States of masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, to 11 years in jail on terrorism financing charges.

The man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 161 people is to serve two five-and-a-half prison terms concurrently.

Saeed has been wanted by India for years and is designated as a global terrorist by both the UN and the US, which has a $10m bounty on his head. He’s the founder of one of Pakistan’s largest militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

It took so long to put him behind bars – and will he stay there? The answer is complicated, not least by the fact that Saeed is widely known to have close links with the Pakistani military.

Saeed was the first high profile figure convicted on these charges in Pakistan, which denies regular accusations that it supports and harbors militants.

In June 2018, FATF moved Pakistan to its “grey” list of countries – those that are found to be non-compliant on money laundering and terror financing standards.

Over the subsequent months, in order to avoid international sanctions, Pakistan moved to arrest scores of terror suspects and sealed or took over hundreds of properties linked to banned groups.

But many saw these actions as just meant for optics, with no serious action visible against major militant groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The pressure kept rising, and in April 2019, the government proscribed half a dozen organizations linked to the JuD and another group, the Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDwI).

Hafiz Saeed’s conviction was for owning properties linked to banned organizations such as JuD and MDwI.

He was arrested last July, three months before FATF’s scheduled review of whether Pakistan was complying with its action plan.

In that review, held in October, Pakistan was found lacking on several counts, but a decision on whether to downgrade it was put off until the next review, which is expected next week.

Saeed was indicted in December, and the trial concluded in less than two months, which must be a record of sorts for Pakistan.

But given his close links with the Pakistani security establishment, many questions if he will be really abandoned by the Pakistani establishment, made to serve a full sentence and condemned to the life of a convicted criminal.

Pakistan has arrested him several times since the 9/11 attacks in the US, but it never charged him with specific offenses and always set him free in the end.

He was put under house arrest on a number of occasions, first when the Indian government blamed him for masterminding the December 2001 attack on its parliament, and then after the Mumbai train bombings of 2006.

He was also put under house arrest several times between 2008 and 2009 following accusations that the LeT had carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

On each of these occasions, the Pakistani government did not frame charges against him. Instead, it continued to file for extensions of his house arrest which the courts would ultimately refuse, setting him free.

Whether this time will be different, or if it is enough to satisfy the FATF remains to be seen.

(With input from agencies)

Publish Date : 14 February 2020 19:43 PM

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