A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has recently sentenced an Islamic Militant Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba to 11 years in jail for financing terrorist operations. The mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in two terror-financing cases will serve two five-and-a-half prison terms concurrently.
What significance does this move has at a global stage? Is Pakistan really trying to make a sincere effort in curbing the growing terrorism on its soil or is it just due to the threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)?
Curious case of punishment
Why punish him now? The answer may lie in Pakistan’s growing international isolation since the mid-2000s. This coupled with FATF threat has expedited the arrest of Mumbai attack mastermind in Pakistan. Significantly, Saeed’s conviction comes a week before the Paris-based FATF, the international terror financing and money laundering watchdog discusses the country’s progress in curbing terror financing.
Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has been ruled, indirectly or directly, by its military, leaving very little scope for democratically elected government and high courts. Same Military has often been the active contributor of wars in Afghanistan and insurgency in Kashmir. But now the situation seems to be changing. Experts believe that if Pakistan fails to comply with FATF guidelines and is downgraded to its blacklist, there could be serious financial implications.
What has Islamic republic done to curb militancy?
To prevent growth in cases of money laundering and terror financing, FATF, in June 2018, moved Pakistan to its grey list of countries. Since, Pakistan is already in financial dire straits, it has moved to arrest scores of terror suspects. This move though may look good on papers, is primarily done to avoid international sanctions and just meant for optics, with no visible action against international designated terrorist groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
Hafiz Saeed’s conviction is due to properties owned by him, which are linked to banned organisations such as JuD and MDwl. Although he has been arrested, many question if he will be really abandoned by the Pakistani establishment, given his close links with them.
He set up MDwl jointly with a Pakistan-based Saudi Salafist leader Abdullah Uzzam in 1987. Terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), backed by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency moved into Kashmir to fight against Indian forces. There was a popular uprising against Indian rule in 1988, which later turned into a pro-Pakistan Islamist campaign, all thanks to operations conducted by militants from LeT, founded by Hafiz Saeed.
Whether this recent conviction of Saeed by high court would curb growing terrorist activities in the region or not, is unclear since he has already been charged with specific offences in the past, and have always been set free in the end. Nevertheless, international community shouldn’t let up its pressure on the country. Pakistan should not just limit itself from legal action against terror financing as hard measures against terror groups and infrastructure is equally important to ensure peace in the region.