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February 14, 2020

The Hafiz Saeed verdict

Editorial

 
February 14, 2020

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who has been arrested and released eight times since 2001, has been sentenced on terror financing charges for six years by an anti-Terrorism Court. The sentence is linked to charges that Saeed’s charitable organizations are fronts for funding the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba that he founded. He has also been charged for holding illegally obtained property, although the details of this have not been provided. Hafiz Saeed has consistently been accused by New Delhi for allegedly planning the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. He has also been declared a global terrorist by both the UN and the US, which put a $10 million bounty on his head. Alice Wells the top US diplomat for South Asia has hailed the conviction in a tweet and said it was an important step forward for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing.

Sentencing Hafiz Saeed has not been an easy task, as evidence and incontrovertible testimonies have been hard to come by. With weak prosecution and ill-prepared cases, Saeed and his alleged accomplices were unlikely to be found guilty as charged. The JUD has not commented on his latest arrest and it is likely that in the days ahead New Delhi will renew its demands that he be brought to trial for the siege of Mumbai. India has repeatedly claimed it has provided Pakistan evidence of this, while Pakistan has denied that any solid proof was ever provided.

The question is really a matter of perception. For now, Washington appears to be pleased with the action taken against Hafiz Saeed. However, we do not know how long he will remain behind bars this time round and how long it will be before Pakistan is asked to try him on the more serious terrorist allegations against him and the others accused of acting alongside him. Financing terrorism is a serious crime and it has dreadful implications not only for Pakistan but also for peace in this region. Pakistan is currently trying desperately to have itself removed from the ‘grey list’ of the FATF, and by doing so lift some of the pressure it faces regarding the monitoring of financial transactions and the movement of money within the country. We are still facing the FATF meeting in Paris that will critically scrutinize Pakistan’s progress to comply with its requirements. Ideally, Pakistan should have taken these steps much earlier but for mysterious reasons such culprits were let off the hook multiple times. As Pakistan is in an unenviable position both economically and financially, we can’t take anything for granted. Let’s hope that now Pakistan finally gets out of the grey list and is placed in the white one. One can also hope that this is the start of the end of organisations that have given Pakistan needless notoriety in the international arena.