Karachi despatch | International

A half-hearted crackdown on Saeed networks

Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed (FILE)   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Last week, two Pakistani Ministers, Ahsan Iqbal and Miftah Ismail, and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua rushed to Western capitals as back home the government ordered freezing and seizure of assets belonging to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its subsidiary Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). Both groups are linked to Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and have been declared terrorist outfits by the UN, the U.S. and India.

The Ministers’ goal was to convince Western countries to accept the crackdown on the JuD and the FIF as credible steps against terror and not to support a motion the U.S. and the U.K. are planning to present at a Financial Action Task Force meeting against Pakistan. The motion seeks to place the country on the global terror financing watchlist. The FATF meeting is opening on Sunday and will continue its deliberations till February 23.

Mr. Ismail, the de facto Finance Minister, told The Hindu on the phone from Germany that Pakistan would be able to convince Western countries not to support the move to put the country on the list. “I had constructive talks with German authorities. They are appreciative of the steps Pakistan has taken against the JuD and the FIF,” he said. Foreign Secretary Janjua is in Paris, while Interior Minister Iqbal is meeting with officials in Washington and London — all with the same mission.

Cosmetic steps?

First the government issued a notification and then came a Presidential Ordinance to freeze the assets of the JuD and the FIF. Immediately after the order was issued, provincial authorities swung into action. The Punjab government began taking over the JuD’s madrasas and health facilities in Rawalpindi. The provincial government has also issued a notification barring collection of donations by the JuD and the FIF.

Interestingly, one thing is still missing from the Interior Ministry order — it hasn’t put the organisations in Schedule 1 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, or the banned organisations list. A Ministry official claimed that a formal notification of its placement on Schedule I was held back. “Without such a notification, the organisation will not be formally admitted as a defunct organisation,” said the official.

The JuD has already issued a statement against the government action, which it said is aimed at “pleasing the U.S. and India”. “We are going to challenge it in the court,” JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said. Interestingly a government source said the JuD was taken into confidence before the asset seizure decision was taken. The spokesman admitted that talks took place between the organisation and authorities. “We told them if they want to take our ambulances and give it to Red Crescent, then they should write on them that they belonged to the FIF,” he told The Hindu.

The proposal to bring the JuD into the political mainstream has been doing the rounds since early last year. A retired General, Amjad Shoaib, told the media that a proposal in this regard was prepared by the Inter-Service Intelligence, the spy agency, and sent to the National Counter Terrorism Authority. But the government scuttled the move by refusing to give security clearance to the JuD’s political party, the Milli Muslim League.

What will happen now? Amir Rana, director of the Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, said the government doesn’t seem to have a plan on how to deal with the JuD. “The government’s actions seem genuine but unless the military agrees to support them, the problem remains as it is.”

(Mubashir Zaidi writes for The Hindu and is based in Karachi)


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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 8:58:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/a-half-hearted-crackdown-on-saeed-networks/article22784680.ece

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