Chief of Jamaat-ul-Dawa (JuD) 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 United States.
Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty on, 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.
Saeed was presented before an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Gujranwala that sent him on judicial remand for seven days. He was subsequently shifted to Lahore’s high-security KotLakhpat jail where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is serving seven years imprisonment in a corruption case, the official said.
In a statement, the CTD said Saeed was arrested in a case registered in Gujranwala and he will face the trial in ATC, Gujranwala.
The CTD on 3 July 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.
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 President Donald Trump.
Trump has repeatedly asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny militants 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 RehmanMakki, 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, DawatulIrshad 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. 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.
On January 31, 2017, Saeed and his four aides were put under house arrest by the Punjab government under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. Saeed was released from the house arrest in November, 2017 after the Pakistan government decided against detaining him further in any other case. He was also put under house arrest after the Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 but he was freed by court in 2009. PTI