Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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The United Nations globally designated terrorist — Hafiz Saeed and the mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has again got a reprieve from an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan after it decided to adjourn the hearing in the wake of coronavirus outbreak in the country.

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The anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has decided to suspend the hearing for in four terror financing cases for an indefinite period against the banned terror outfit Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed who carries a USD 10 million bounty on his head.

Saeed was sentenced to 11 years in prison in two terror financing cases and was arrested on July 17, 2019. He was lodged at Pakistan’s maximum-security Kot Lakhpat jail.

A court official said that the hearing against Saeed will resume only after the issue of coronavirus is settled. However, this is not the first time that 70-year-old Saeed has received respite from the court and observers believe that it will definitely not be the last.

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In February, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court deferred its verdict against Hafiz Saeed in two terror financing cases on his “request” and adjourned the hearing on Saeed’s request, the anti-terror court had deferred its verdict.

Saeed had urged the court to club all the terror financing charges against him and deliver the verdict after trial in all the cases was completed. However, the prosecution had opposed the plea asking the court to deliver its verdict in the two completed cases.

In January this year, the court could not record Hafiz’s statement and adjourned the hearing. While in the same month, the hearing was adjourned again after the prosecution lawyer went on leave.  “The Lahore’s Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) adjourned the hearing till next Monday (January 27) after it was told that Deputy Prosecution General Abdur Rauf was on leave for a few days.”

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In December 2019, the trial against Hafiz Saeed was adjourned four times due to the protests by lawyers who opposed the cases filed against their colleagues in connection with a rampage at Lahore’s medical institute.

The inordinate delays have gone on since 2009, just a year after Saeed was detained for Mumbai attacks. In, fact Saeed was put under detention in 2001 following the Parliament attacks in New Delhi and in 2006 after the Mumbai train bombings, but instead of framing charges, the Pakistan Government only extended his house arrest.

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Last month, Omar Saeed Sheikh, the prime accused in 2002 Daniel Pearl murder case, was acquitted due to discrepancies in the case. He was also involved in multiple kidnappings and terror attacks in India and Pakistan.

The development is a worrying sign for India and Pakistan itself, who is desperately trying to stay out of the Financial Action Task Force Grey List.

Last month despite support from China, Turkey, and Malaysia, Pakistan continued to be on the Grey List as the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) a sub-group of FATF concluded that Islamabad had failed to fully implement a 27-point action plan.

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Analysts have long maintained that Saeed’s indictment is simply an eye-wash to prevent Pakistan from falling into the blacklist. The Paris based organization had noted that Pakistan has only fulfilled 5 out of the total 27 safeguards for controlling terror financing.

Pakistan’s attempts to come out of the list have been further complicated after a report by FATF’s Asia Pacific Group which accuses Pakistan of half-hearted measures to curb terror financing.

The FATF noted that Pakistan addressed only 14 of 27 action items given to it for blocking funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

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“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020. Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalizing TF (Terror Financing) not be made by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action, which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdiction to advise their FIs (Financial Institutions) to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan,” according to a press statement issued after the plenary meeting.

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