In a latest, landmark, laudable and learned judgment, a Pakistani court on November 19, 2020 gave Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, held responsible for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and two close aides prison sentences totalling ten-and-a-half years in two cases of terror financing – a decision likely influenced by the unremitting pressure brought to bear on Islamabad by the Financial Action Task Force. It is this same Hafiz Saeed whom former Pakistani Army Chief Chief and former President of Pakistan – General Pervez Musharraf had hailed as “hero”. He had said that, “Hafiz Saeed to hero hain ji hero. Bharat ke liye yeh aatankwadi hain paar Pakistan ke liye to Hafiz Saeed hero hain ji hero. Bilkul aasli hero hain ji. Bharat neh to ajma keh dekha hain.” Now where is the same hero Hafiz Saeed? He is in Lahore jail! This is the reward that he has got for sponsoring terrorism.
Needless to say, it must be mentioned here that Hafiz Saeed was given two separate five-year prison term and a six-month jail term for being a member of a banned group. The sentence for November 19 charges will run concurrently. Hafiz is already in a Lahore jail serving two sentences of five-and-a-half-years each in other terror funding cases.
Truth be told, the Judge also ordered the seizure of Hafiz Saeed’s “movable and immovable property” and directed him to pay fines totaling Pakistani Rs 110,000. All three sentences will run concurrently. Since Hafiz is already in jail serving two sentences of five-and-a-half years given to him in February, he will not serve any extra jail time. The Court’s order said elegantly, eloquently, effectively and emphatically that, “Since the convict has already been convicted… by this court vide judgment dated 12.02.2020, so the punishment awarded to him in this case shall also run concurrently with punishment in said cases.”
To put things in perspective, the people who are familiar with all these developments said on condition of anonymity that the sentencing of Saeed was largely due to pressure on Pakistan from western powers and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to crack down on terror groups and terror financing, including prosecution of those funnelling funds to terrorists. It is being widely speculated that Hafiz Saeed’s conviction in four separate cases this year could be an indication the military establishment no longer considers him an asset. Virtually all of Saeed’s top aides have been arrested and put on trial, and there are indication that they are no longer playing a role in directing LeT’s operations.
Be it noted, a total of 41 cases were registered against Hafiz Saeed and his aides by Punjab Police after he was arrested in July 2019. Of these cases, cases, two were decided on November 19, bringing the tally of cases decided so far to 24. The rest are still being heard by anti-terrorism courts. Hafiz Saeed and his aides are being held in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. Hafiz has been convicted in four cases.
No doubt, Hafiz Saeed’s conviction clearly suggests that it is also being seen as an indication of Saeed’s decreasing utility to the deep State in Pakistan that is the Army and the ISI! Besides, Hafiz Saeed, the others sentenced by the anti-terrorism court in Lahore are Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) leaders Zafar Iqbal and Yahya Mujahid, who served as JuD’s spokesperson for many years. All three have been sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
It is worth noting that Hafiz Saeed’s brother-in-law Abdul Rehman Makki who is also a top leader of JuD was given a six-month sentence in the same cases. Hafiz Saeed who is currently serving a prison term in connection with other terror financing cases, was produced for the sentencing by anti-terrorism court Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta. Hafiz was given two separate five-year prison terms under provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act for using and providing funds for acts of terrorism.
Not stopping here, Hafiz was also given a six-month prison term for being a member of a banned group. The Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta also ordered the seizure of Hafiz Saeed’s “movable and immovable property” and directed him to pay fines totaling Pakistani Rs 1,10,000. Judge Arshad of ATC-I heard the cases filed by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab province and announced the verdict after statements of witnesses were cross-examined.
To say the least, the CTD accused them of using properties of religious seminaries and mosques for terror financing. Saeed was arrested on July 17, 2019 and has been lodged in the high security Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. The CTD had registered dozens of FIRs against Hafiz Saeed and his accomplices on terror financing charges in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Faisalabad, Sahiwal and Sargodha. All cases were transferred to Lahore following an order passed of the high court on the petitions of the accused.
In hindsight, a dreaded terror chief like Hafiz Saeed certainly deserved much harsher punishment. He should have been sentenced either to death or with life term! Ten years jail is just not enough but still it has proved that crime never pays and even the Pakistani Army and ISI can do nothing when courts come into action!
As it turned out, many are questioning the time of his conviction with the sword of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklisting Pakistan hanging on the horizon over its unrestricted, unhindered and uninhibited support to various terror groups directed against India. FATF had recently concluded that Pakistan had not addressed six of its 27-point action plan items to check terror financing and money laundering. One of these six points relate to action against UN Security Council proscribed terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar who heads another dreaded terror outfit termed as “Jaish-e-Mohammad”.
It goes without saying that this alone explains why Sameer Patil who is an eminent fellow for international security studies at Gateway House said very rightly that, “Pakistan could say after Saeed’s sentencing in several cases that it has delivered on FATF’s demand for prosecution of those involved in terror financing and claim a moral victory.” He also very rightly pointed out in simple and straight language that, “But it’s more important to see what Saeed does next, including the outcome of any appeals in higher courts. The Pakistani establishment may have sacrificed Saeed but his network remains and his son Talha Saeed and Lakhvi are still active. The game is not over yet.”
It is worthwhile to mention here that the US has named Hafiz Saeed as a “specially designated global terrorist” and has offered a $ 10 million reward for information that brings him to justice. If US sincerely wanted it could have easily killed Hafiz but US feels that he is more of a threat to India and not to US which alone explains as to why they have still not killed him! So why should US bother? India has to fight its own war itself by storming fiercely the bases of Pakistan where terrorists get training!
Interestingly enough, Hafiz Saeed was also listed as a terrorist under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008. Yet it is the worst travesty of justice that he still is roaming around in Pakistan and not being punished most severely for his involvement in masterminding so many terror attacks including that of 26/11, 2008 carnage of Mumbai that left 166 people dead including 6 Americans and many others injured! This again is solely because UN stands fully and firmly with Pakistan for the proxy war that it has waged against India and inspite of knowing full that Pakistan is the “hub of terrorism” still ensures that no strict action is taken against Pakistan!
Tragically enough, what is worst is that the Indian Government led by PM Narendra Modi still shamelessly feel that UN will make India a permanent member of UN Security Council! How long will we continue fooling ourselves and not see the clear writing on the wall! We all know many terror leaders like Syed Salaluddin are enjoying full protection of Pakistani Army and ISI and plan terror strikes against India with them yet UN laughs at us and asks us to foolishly engage in “talks and dialogues” with a rogue state like Pakistan who has got unfettered licence to export terror warfare in India!
All thanks to US, UK, UN and China for always fully standing with Pakistan in its proxy war that it has waged against India and ensuring that only a terror head like Osama bin Laden who acts against US is killed right in Rawalpindi where Pakistani Army Headquarters are located and others like Masood Azhar, Syed Salaluddin, Hafiz Saeed are never touched under any circumstances except for the sham trial by the kangaroo courts of Pakistan where Judge himself fears for his life if he awards death penalty or even life term to dreaded terror leaders like Hafiz Saeed! Herein lies the real rub! US, UK, UN and China are the root cause for Pakistan not doing anything to check terror war that it has declared against India as they never want India to prosper, progress and become powerful no matter what they say for just public consumption! Only and only France along with Russia stands fully, firmly and finally with India!
Truly speaking, we all know this very well but some politicians both in ruling party and in Opposition pretend to not see all this and stupidly, shamelessly and senselessly keep demanding a permanent seat for India in UN Security Council just like more than 9 crore people of West UP keep demanding a high court bench since independence and even Justice Jaswant Singh Commission appointed by late Mrs Indira Gandhi government had recommended it in Agra in late 1970s yet not a single bench has been set up in any of the 26 districts of West UP till 2020 even though Jawaharlal Nehru had set up a bench in July 1948 at Lucknow which is just about 200 km away from Allahabad where high court is located leaving the people of West UP, Bundelkhand and other regions high and dry as both high court and a single bench are in Eastern UP! Leaders of even ruling BJP keep demanding high court bench even in Parliament time and again yet Centre shamelessly, senselessly and stupidly refuses to create even a single bench in any hook and corner of UP leave alone West UP even though smaller states like Karnataka which has just 6 crore population as compared to 9 crore of West UP has 3 benches at Dharwad, Gulbarga and Hubli thus emulating US, UK, UN and China on this key issue!
How tragic it is that lawyers of West UP have even gone on strike for 6 months in a row as was done in 2001 and for 3 to 4 months as was done in 2014-15 and so many other times also apart from 37 year old strike every week on Saturday! Centre refuses to realize that people of West UP have to travel more than 700 km on an average to travel all the way to Allahabad to attend court hearings which is most disgraceful! Centre must introspect honestly on this that why a State like UP which has maximum population, maximum pending cases and here too West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases and still it has no bench as one bench is only in Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad even though many other state capitals like Bhopal which is capital of MP, Dispur which is capital of Assam, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala, Raipur which is capital of Chhattisgarh, Dehradun which is capital of Uttarakhand, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha etc has neither high court nor bench! Then why is it that in UP both high court and a single bench are in Eastern UP only and that too very close? Also, why a peaceful state like Maharashtra which has topped in justice index list has 4 high court benches at Kolhapur, Panaji, Nagpur and Aurangabad and UP which fares so poorly has just one and West UP where maximum crimes occur has none?
Is Centre not behaving like US, UK, UN and China which refuses to see India’s woes? Centre must also first itself change on this high court bench issue before asking others to change! The 230th report of Law Commission of India recommended creation of more benches but Centre has implemented it only in Karnataka and Maharashtra but not in UP which has maximum pending cases! Centre must also reform on this and similarly on Hafiz Saeed and relentless support by Pakistan to terror acts directed against India must become more vocal and punish Pakistan in all respects so that they dare not ever think to send terrorists to India! All that is needed is a strong political will as was demonstrated after the Uri terror attack in 2016 and Pulwama terror attack in 2019!