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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 23 November, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

Pressure and punishment: On conviction of Hafiz Saeed

Pressure and punishment: On conviction of Hafiz Saeed

Context

  • The conviction of Hafiz Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist whom India and the U.S. blame for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166, by a Lahore anti-terrorism court on terror finance charges shows that Pakistan can be forced to act against terror networks under international pressure.

Details

  • Saeed, in jail since July last year, was convicted in another case of terror financing in February this year.
  • He is currently serving two sentences of five and a half years each.
  • Saeed would not serve any additional jail term as the judge said he would serve the punishment concurrently with the other sentences.
  • But the repeated convictions of someone who was a favourite of Pakistan’s military establishment till a few years ago, in terror financing cases, underscore the concerns India and the U.S. have about his operations.

Background

  • He first founded the LeT in the 1990s targeting India.
  • When the terror group came under international pressure, he revived the JuD, supposedly an Islamic charity, in 2002, which India accuses of being an LeT front.
  • Even after the Mumbai attack, Pakistan refused to act against Saeed and his networks.
  • It was only after the U.S. declared a bounty on Saeed’s head and the UN proscribed his organisations that Pakistan, facing pressure from the FATF, banned his organisations.
  • Unsurprisingly, the latest conviction comes a month after the FATF, a global dirty money watchdog, urged Pakistan to complete an internationally agreed action plan to fight terror financing.
  • In February 2018, Pakistan endorsed a UN list of terrorist organisations operating in the country and enforced a nationwide ban on them, including the LeT and the JuD, just before a meeting of the FATF.
  • But the FATF still placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June 2018, and demanded more actions from Islamabad to avoid being blacklisted, which could invite economic sanctions.
  • Ever since, Pakistan, which cannot afford to be blacklisted, especially when its economy is in a shambles, has moved against Saeed.
  • The Anti-Terrorism Department’s FIRs against Saeed and his aides accuse the JuD of financing terrorism from its fund collections in the name of charity through NGOs.

Way forward

  • While the authorities’ move against Saeed is welcome, the question is whether these are genuine attempts to fight terrorism or half-hearted measures to dodge international pressure.
  • There are doubts because Pakistan had used anti-India and anti-Afghan terrorist networks for strategic advantages.
  • It was this dual policy of fighting terror at home while nurturing terror groups that target its rivals abroad that has been responsible for Pakistan’s predicament.
  • If it is serious about fighting terrorism, Pakistan should crack down on terror financing and terror infrastructure.
  • The international community and organisations, including the FATF, should keep up the pressure until Islamabad shows tangible outcomes.

Source: TH


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