Pakistani Islamist leader pleads not guilty on terrorism financing charges

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, looks over the crowed as they end a “Kashmir Caravan” from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Pakistani Islamist leader pleads not guilty on terrorism financing charges

  • Hafiz Saeed is facing charges of financing terrorism
  • The US has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his conviction

LAHORE: Pakistani Islamist militant Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, pleaded not guilty on Friday in a second case on charges of financing terrorism, a government prosecutor and a defense lawyer said.
Saeed, who was indicted on similar charges in another case on Dec 11, was presented in an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, prosecutor Abdur Rauf Watto told Reuters.
Defense lawyer Imran Gill said the second case was related to Saeed’s charity operations. “The militant charities the accused ran collected illegal funds,” Watto said.
Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or the Army of the Pure, a militant group blamed by the United States and India for the four-day Mumbai siege in which 160 people were killed. Foreigners, including Americans, were among the dead.
Pakistan’s counterterrorism police arrested Saeed in July, days before a visit to Washington by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The indictments came ahead of a meeting of world financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) early next year that will decide whether to blacklist Pakistan for its failure to curb terror financing.
The United States has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to the conviction of Saeed, who has been arrested and released several times over the past decade.
Washington has long pressured Pakistan to try Saeed, who is designated a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations.
The Islamist has denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks and says his network, which spans 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services, has no ties to militant groups.


‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

Updated 27 November 2020

‘Baby don’t go’: American singer Cher in Pakistan to bid farewell to Kaavan the elephant 

  • The 'world's loneliest elephant' has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years and lost his partner in 2012
  • Cher and animal rights groups have campaigned for years for the elephant’s better treatment and freedom 

ISLAMABAD: American singing sensation Cher called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday during a visit to Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who is all set to leave an Islamabad zoo for a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Cher and other rights groups have for years lobbied for the better treatment and release of Kaavan, who has languished in the Islamabad zoo for 35 years. He was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioral issues. He will leave for Cambodia on Sunday.

“Appreciating her efforts in retiring Kavan to an elephant sanctuary, the Prime Minister thanked Cher for her campaign and role in this regard,” a government handout said. “The Prime Minister observed that it was indeed a happy moment for all of us that after giving joy and happiness to the people of Islamabad and Pakistan for about 35 years, Kavan will now be able to retire with other elephants in a specialized sanctuary in Cambodia.”

Khan also invited the singer to contribute towards the government's initiative to expand its tourism and environmental programs, “to which she kindly agreed.”

“On this occasion, Cher applauded the Prime Minister for his government's key initiatives for ensuring a cleaner and greener Pakistan,” the statement added. “She also offered her support for furthering the green initiatives through her organization 'Free the Wild' and thanked the Prime Minister.”

Cher took up Kaavan’s cause and has been a loud voice advocating for his resettlement. Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group, has also led the charge to save Kaavan and provided the medical treatment needed before he can travel. The battle for his relocation began in 2016.

Even after he’s in Cambodia, Kaavan will require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Four Paws' representatives have said.

Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life. A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.

The elephant has also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.

For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has been readying Kaavan to leave. Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the sanctuary.