WASHINGTON - A court in Lahore has directed the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan to submit a response on why they have barred Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)’s humanitarian operations across the country.
Saeed has been labeled a U.S.-designated global terrorist. JuD, and its affiliated charity, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), are U.S.- and U.N.-designated terror organizations.
The Lahore High Court issued the directive Thursday based on a petition filed by Saeed, who claims the government’s decision to bar JuD from carrying out its charitable activities is illegal and unconstitutional.
Saeed claims Pakistan made the decision because of pressure from the U.S. and India.
The court instructed the federal government to submit a response explaining its reasoning for the decision by April 27.
A few weeks ago, the same court issued an order to the federal and provincial governments of Punjab not to arrest Saeed after the Islamist cleric said he feared the Pakistani government wanted to jail him, also because of pressure from the U.S. and India.
?Saeed’s links to JuD and FIF
Saeed filed a case with the court in January after the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued a directive banning individuals and groups placed on terror watch lists by Pakistan and the U.N. Security Council from collecting funds. The directive also banned those groups from arranging any political, social, welfare or religious events in the country.
The directive included JuD and FIF.
The SECP directive was seen as a move by Pakistan’s government to assure the U.N. and the U.S. that Pakistan was serious in its efforts to curb terror financing ahead of a visit by a U.N. Security Council delegation. The delegation was to assess Islamabad’s efforts against terror groups that had been placed on the U.N. terror watch list.
Saeed is believed to be the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.
Following the Mumbai attacks, Saeed was added to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267 sanctions list in December 2008.
In 2012, the United States declared Saeed a “global terrorist” and offered a bounty of $10 million for information that would lead to his arrest.
With its headquarters based in the outskirts of Lahore, JuD and FIF allegedly manage a large charity network in Pakistan. With thousands of volunteers, the two groups manage more than 300 religious seminaries, schools, hospitals and ambulance networks.
JuD is believed to be the front organization for Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), a U.S.-designated terror group founded by Saeed in the 1980s with the aim to liberate Indian-administered Kashmir and its eventual merger with Pakistan. Over the years, the group has expanded its operations to Afghanistan as well.
Last month, Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain signed an amendment to the country’s anti-terrorism law that allows the government to blacklist charities linked to Saeed.
Before the amendment, the organizations sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council were not automatically listed as terrorist entities in Pakistan. That allowed JuD and FIF to freely carry out their alleged charity work and collect donations without undergoing federal scrutiny.
Pakistan has been under growing international pressure for its inability to crackdown on Saeed and his JuD and FIF organizations. Despite being placed on U.S. and U.N. terror lists, the organizations operate freely. Over time, the groups have managed to gain influence throughout the country.
In November 2017, after 11 months under house arrest, Saeed was freed. The Lahore High Court said there was not enough evidence that would link Saeed to the Mumbai terror attacks. The United States had warned Pakistan of repercussions for the decision at the time.
Later, the U.S., along with Britain, France and Germany introduced a motion against Pakistan with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors terror financing and money laundering around the world. The motion sought to place the country on the FATF list.
According to a decision taken at FATF’s meeting in February, Pakistan will be placed on FATF’s terror watch list this June.
The U.S. motion alleged that Pakistan had failed to comply with FATF’s guidelines to stop militant groups from collecting donations for terror activities.
Militant groups in Pakistan reportedly collect donations under the guise of religion and welfare for the poor and instead use the money to fund terrorism inside and outside of Pakistan.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a press briefing in February that Pakistan had been called out for its inadequate actions against Saeed several times.
“How many times have we talked about the person [Saeed] who Pakistan let out of house arrest, who was responsible for the Mumbai attacks back in 2008 that killed so many people, including Americans, too?” Nauert said.