Hafiz Saeed's trial falters as Pak authorities fail to produce co-accused

Lahore: Mumbai terror attack mastermind and chief of the banned JuD Hafiz Saeed could not be indicted by Lahore's anti-terrorism court for terror financing charges as the authorities strangely failed to produce the other co-accused at the high profile hearing on Saturday.

The development came a day after India said it was aware that the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack was "roaming freely" and enjoying "Pakistan's hospitality".

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi on Friday that India had shared all the evidence with Pakistan and it was Islamabad's responsibility "to take action" against the perpetrators of the attack.

The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) here has now fixed December 11 as date for framing the charges against the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other co-accused Malik Zafar Iqbal.

"Case against Hafiz Saeed and others under the FIR 30/19 Counter Terrorism Department of Punjab police was fixed for framing of charges in connection with terror financing before the Anti-Terrorism Court-1 Lahore but strangely co-accused Malik Zafar Iqbal was not produced from jail. Due to this reason, the case has been adjourned till December 11 for further proceedings and for framing of the charges," a court official told PTI after the hearing.

Saeed was brought to the court from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail amidst tight security.

Journalists were not allowed to enter the court premises to cover the proceedings because of security reasons.

"We have directions not to allow journalists enter the court premises because this was a high profile case and police couldn't afford any security lapse," said an official of the Punjab police.

The court official said judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta has directed the authorities to ensure that co-accused Iqbal attends the next hearing on December 11.

In the last hearing on December 1, the judge had fixed December 7 as the date for indictment of Saeed and others after hearing the arguments of prosecution and defence lawyers.

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab Police had registered 23 FIRs against Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of "terror financing" in different cities of Punjab province and arrested the Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief on July 17. He is detained at the Kot Lakhpat jail.

The cases have been registered in Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan for collection of funds for terror financing through assets/properties made and held in the names of Trusts/Non Profit Organisations (NPO) including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust.

Under pressure from the international community, the Pakistani authorities have launched investigations into matters of the LeT, JuD and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) for their holding and use of trusts to raise funds for terrorism financing.

According to the CTD, the investigation was launched into financing matters of proscribed organisations - the JuD and the LeT - in connection with implementation of the UN sanctions against these designated entities and persons as directed by NSC (National Security Committee) in its January 1 meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan for implementing National Action Plan.

"These suspects made assets from terrorism financing funds. They held and used these assets to raise more funds for more terror financing. Hence, they committed multiple offences of terrorism financing & money laundering under Anti Terrorism Act 1997. They will be prosecuted in ATCs for commission of these offences," the CTD has said.

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 the JuD chief to justice.

On July 3, top 13 leaders of the banned JuD outfit, including Saeed and Naib Emir Abdul Rehman Makki, were booked in nearly two dozen cases for terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

The CTD had registered an FIR against Saeed and others for illegally grabbing a piece of land in Lahore and setting up a seminary.

According to officials, JuD's network includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and an ambulance service.

In March, Punjab police said that the government seized control of 160 seminaries, 32 schools, two colleges, four hospitals, 178 ambulances and 153 dispensaries associated with the JuD and its charity wing FIF in the province.

At least 56 seminaries and facilities being run by the JuD and FIF in southern Sindh province were also taken over by authorities in the same month.

Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.