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.


Political parties, rights groups slam new crackdown in disputed Kashmir

Updated 30 October 2020

Political parties, rights groups slam new crackdown in disputed Kashmir

  • New regulation, which allows non-Kashmiris can buy land in Kashmir, is seen as an attempt to dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) on called raids on rights groups an attempt to 'to crush peaceful criticism and calls for accountability'

NEW DELHI: Pro-India political parties in Kashmir on Friday accused New Delhi of “infringement” of their fundamental rights, days after the introduction of controversial land laws in the region.
The passage of the new regulation, under which non-Kashmiris can buy land in Kashmir, was immediately followed by counterterrorism raids on politicians and activists.
On Friday, the local administration prevented Farooq Abdullah, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and senior leader of the region’s oldest party, National Conference (NC), from offering prayers at Srinagar's historic Hazratbal shrine on the occasion of Mawlid Al-Nabi, the observance of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
"J&K administration has blocked the residence of Party President Dr Farooq Abdullah and stopped him from offering prayers at Dargah Hazratbal. The NC condemns this infringement of fundamental right to pray, especially on the auspicious occasion of Milad Un Nabi SAW," the NC said in a tweet.
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti said that preventing Abdullah from offering prayers at the shrine "exposed" the Indian government's "deep paranoia and their iron fist approach" toward Kashmir.
"It's a gross violation of our rights and is highly condemnable," she tweeted.
On Thursday, the government sealed the PDP office and stopped the party's workers from protesting against the new land laws were notified on Tuesday.
The PDP accuses the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to "silence any voices that speak up" against its "unilateral actions" in Kashmir, PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar told Arab News.
"Dissent has been criminalized and voices muzzled as part of the project to take over whatever this state has, land and resources," he said.
The closure of the PDP office followed Wednesday raids by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) on several NGOs which it accused of carrying out and raising funds for "secessionist and separatist activities" Kashmir.
The groups see the move as a crackdown.
Praveena Ahanger of the Srinagar-based Association of Disappeared Persons (APDP), one of the seven NGOs that were raided by NIA, said it is a "clear case of reprisal and crackdown on the human rights defenders in Kashmir."
Zafarul Islam Khan, former head of the Delhi Minority Commission whose NGO Charity Alliance's premises in Delhi were also raided by NIA, told Arab News that according to the agency's search order, his group was "funding terror organizations in Kashmir."
It is a "Himalayan lie,” he said. "They are trying to implicate me for my work in the Delhi Minority Commission and for my reports on Delhi religious violence in which the names of the ruling BJP leaders have cropped up."
International human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday called the raids an attempt “to silence peaceful dissenters, human rights activists, and journalists.”
"India faces serious security challenges, but instead of addressing the problems in a rights-respecting manner, the authorities appear determined to crush peaceful criticism and calls for accountability,” HRW South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said in a statement.
Crackdowns on Kashmiri leaders and rights activists have escalated since August 2019 when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights. People in the region fear the new land laws are aimed at diluting the Muslim-majority character of the region.
"Land in Kashmir is the biggest resource which is now being offered to outsiders as part of demographic projects. Actual assault is on the Muslim majority character of the region. Everything else is a step to achieve that," PDP's Akhatar said.
Political experts say that altering the region's demography was the main concept behind the revocation of Kashmir's special status.
"The whole idea of revoking Article 370 was to alter the demography of Kashmir otherwise the land in Kashmir is limited, 93 percent of the area in Kashmir is mountain,” Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain of Srinagar-based Kashmir University told Arab News.
"People are angry in Kashmir and it might spill over the street any day."
But Srinagar-based BJP leader Dr. Hina Bhat discounts the possibility.
"I don’t think people are angry. Those who are protesting have lost all credibility. The change in land law will not force people to sell their lands to outsiders," she told Arab News.
Commenting on the killing of three BJP workers in Kulgam area of Kashmir on Thursday, Bhat said that "militants don’t want the region to progress."
"The killings of our party men will not deter us from doing good work in Kashmir."