Mumbai terror attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested Wednesday on terror financing charges by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Province, just days ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to the US.
Saeed, who has several cases pending against him, was travelling to Gujranwala from Lahore to get pre-arrest bail in terror financing cases registered against him there when he was arrested, a CTD official told PTI.
“The JuD chief was going to Gujranwala from Lahore on Wednesday morning when a CTD team intercepted him near Gujranwala city (some 80-km from Lahore) and arrested him on terror financing charges,” the official said.
Soon after the arrest, Saeed was presented before an Anti-Terrorism Court in Gujranwala that granted his judicial remand. He was subsequently shifted to Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is lodged, the official said.
Sharif is serving seven years imprisonment in the jail in Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.
The CTD on July 3 had registered 23 FIRs against 13 top leaders of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) including Saeed on the charges of “terror financing” in different cities of Punjab province.
On Monday, Saeed and his three aides were granted pre-arrest bail by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, which stopped police from arresting them till August 3 in a land grabbing case and setting up a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) seminary over there.
Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.
Under pressure from the international community, Pakistani authorities have launched investigations into matters of the LeT, the JuD and its charity wing the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) regarding their holding and use of trusts to raise funds for terrorism financing.
Saeed’s arrest comes just ahead of Prime Minister Khan’s maiden visit to the US on July 21 during which he will hold talks with US President Donald Trump.
Trump has repeatedly asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.
Saeed’s arrest is also being seen as a pressure on Pakistan in connection with its commitment to the Financial Act Task Force (FATF) whose next deadline is in October.
Since the Khan government has taken control of the JuD and the FIF properties including seminaries and mosques across the country following international pressure built up after the deadly Pulwama attack, Saeed was keeping a low profile at his Lahore’s Jauhar Town residence.
He was even barred from entering the JuD headquarters in Lahore and Muridke.
According to officials, JuD’s network includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance service.
The Pakistani government had also recently arrested the JuD’s second in command Abdul Rehman Makki, who is brother-in-law of Saeed, on the charges of making a public speech and terror financing charges.
The CTD said it booked Saeed and his 12 aides for ‘terror financing’ in 23 cases after “irrefutable evidence� against them was detected.
The cases have been registered in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terrorism financing through assets/properties made and held in the names of Trusts/ Non Profit Organisations (NPO) including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc.
The CTD said investigation launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations — JuD and LeT — in connection with implementation of UN Sanctions against these Designated Entities and Persons as directed by NSC (National Security Committee) in its Meeting of 1st January 2019 chaired by Prime Minister Khan for implementing National Action Plan.
“These suspects made assets from funds of terrorism financing. They held and used these assets to raise more funds for further terrorism financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing & money laundering under Anti Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in ATCs (Anti Terrorism Courts) for commission of these offences,” the CTD said.
Makki, MaliK Zafar Iqbal, Ameer Hamza, Muhammad Yahya Aziz, Muhammad Naeem Sh, Mohsin Bilal, Abdul Raqeeb, Ahmad Daud, Muhammad Ayub, Abdullah Ubaid, Muhammad Ali and Abdul Ghaffar are other suspects.
The other suspects reported to have been hiding since the government took over over the properties of these organizations.
Saeed and others had challenged in the Lahore High Court (LHC) the CTD FIRs on which the court issued notices to the federal government, the Punjab government and CTD and sought a reply from the respondents till July 30.