Hafiz Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist had never been formally charged in Pakistani courts until recently, just ahead of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) plenary meeting in Paris, where the country's actions to counter terror financing will be assessed. Hence, the timing of the arrest and trial is curious.
The verdict on the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder came just four days before the FATF meeting where Pakistan was scheduled to struggle its way out of the grey list of the organisation set up to combat terror financing and money laundering.
The terrorist was awarded a five-and-a-half-year prison term in two terror financing cases that would run concurrently. Anti-terrorism court Judge Arshad Hussain Bhatta also fined him Rs 15,000 in the two cases.
A day after the verdict, people with knowledge about the developments in the case form the government said that the efficacy of the decision remains to be seen.
“We have seen media reports that a court in Pakistan has sentenced UN designated and internationally proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed in terror financing case. It is part of a long pending international obligation of Pakistan to put an end to support for terrorism,” people familiar with the matter said.
“The decision has been made on the eve of FATF Plenary meeting, which has to be noted. Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen,” they added.
“It has to also be seen whether Pakistan would take action against other all terrorist entities and individuals operating from territories under its control, and bring perpetrators of cross border terrorist attacks, including in Mumbai and Pathankot to justice expeditiously,” people familiar with the development further said.
The 69-year-old terrorist has a bounty of USD 10 million on him, set by the US. After the grave 2008 Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, Saeed has been detained several times without charge but has never been prosecuted by Pakistani courts.
Hafiz Saeed has pleaded “not guilty”.