An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore convicted Hafiz Saeed in two cases of terror financing and sentenced him to five and a half years of jail in both matters. A fine of Rs. 15,000 for each case was also levied on him.
However, the jail term in both the cases will run concurrently, which means Saeed will remain in prison for merely five years.
Saeed planned Mumbai terror attacks, is UN-designated terrorist
Saeed is the founder of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is the chief of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and also the mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai attacks that killed over 150.
Islamabad took token action against Saeed after Financial Action Task Force (FATF) threatened to blacklist it for aiding terror financing.
Saeed was arrested in July, his terror financing deeds exposed
Saeed was arrested by Counter-Terrorism Department in July 2019 when he was traveling from Lahore to Gujranwala.
According to the body, Saeed was financing terrorism through funds collected by organizations like Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. These organizations were banned in April after CTD learned they were linked with Saeed.
The verdict in Saeed's case was reserved on February 6.
Verdict in four other cases is pending
Notably, ATC judge Arshad Hussain Bhatta found Saeed guilty under Section 11-F(2), pertaining to membership, support and meetings relating to a proscribed organization, and 11-N, punishment under Sections 11-H (fund-raising) to 11-K (money laundering) of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The court asked authorities to wait for instructions.
Saeed was booked in four other cases, and the verdict will be out by this week's end.
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In 2017, Saeed was detained, released within a year
It's important to note that Saeed and four of his aides were detained by the government in 2017 under terrorism laws. He was released after merely 11 months as the Judicial Review Board of Punjab didn't find it appropriate to extend the detention.
Saeed was convicted before FATF's crucial hearing
This action is being linked to FATF's warnings. The terror financing watchdog has repeatedly pulled up Pakistan for failing to act against home-grown terrorism.
Already on the greylist, a downgrade to blacklist would affect Pakistan's cash-strapped economy.
FATF's plenary meeting in Paris will decide this week whether changes should be made to Pakistan's status. By convicting Saeed, Pakistan might be looking to earn brownie points.