A court in Pakistan Friday convicted and sentenced five men for being members of al-Qaida and supporting terrorism.
A statement by the counter terrorism department of Punjab province said the court in Gujranwala city found the men guilty of terrorism financing, possessing explosives, membership in a proscribed organization, and possessing literature of a proscribed organization.
Each of the men has been sentenced to 16 years imprisonment along with financial penalties. Their personal property has also been confiscated according to the statement issued by CTD Punjab.
The men, Abdullah Umair, Ahmadur Rehman, Asim Akbar Saeed, Muhammad Yaqoob, and Muhammad Yousaf, were arrested in Gujranwala, around 75 km north of Lahore, in December of 2019. At the time the statement said they were preparing to carry out a terrorist attack.
According to Pakistan’s English daily Dawn newspaper, the men were running a media cell of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, the local chapter of al-Qaida.
While the conviction rate in terrorism linked cases in Pakistan has increased since 2016, Muhammad Amir Rana, a security analyst and director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad based think tank, said the addition of terrorism financing charges in the case may have been due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that monitors terrorism funding.
Pakistan is currently on a FATF watch list and the organization has demanded that the country increase its crackdown on terrorism financing.
“I’m sure the men belong to the group, but I think the terror financing charges are under FATF pressure because usually, in the organizational structure of such groups, finance and media are separate departments,” Rana said.
FATF placed Pakistan on its grey list in June of 2018 and has since given the country several extensions to comply with its demands. The next deadline is in October of 2020 when the country’s performance will be judged.
Getting off the grey list is important for the South Asian country as its economy falters. The coronavirus pandemic has added to Pakistan’s already sputtering economic engine, pushing the growth rate into the negative.
Being on the FATF grey list raises the cost of doing international financial transactions because of added scrutiny by banks or financial institutions.