Posts Tagged ‘Jamaat-ud-Dawa’

US sanctions Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan

April 3, 2018

Al Jazeera

Pakistan has come under increasing international pressure to crack down on armed groups allegedly operating on its soil.

Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity [Mohsin Raza/Reuters]
Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity [Mohsin Raza/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – The United States has imposed sanctions on Pakistani political party the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political front of armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), designating it and its leadership as “terrorists”, a State Department statement said.

The US added the Milli Muslim League and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) as aliases of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and specifically named seven MML leaders as “terrorists”, said the statement, issued on Monday.

“Today’s amendments take aim at Lashkar-e-Taiba’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character,” said Nathan Sales, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator. “Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group.”

An MML spokesperson told Al Jazeera it would challenge the decision and work to “remove misconceptions” regarding its work.


Who benefits from Pakistan’s loss of US aid?

Rafia Zakaria
by Rafia Zakaria

“Political association is a fundamental human right,” said spokesperson Tabish Qayyum, who was named in the US sanctions list. “This [designation] is against the US’s own position when it comes to democracy … we have always rejected all kinds of terrorism.”

Qayyum, along with party chief Saifullah Khalid and leaders Muzammil Iqbal Hashmi, Muhammad Harris Dar, Fayyaz Ahmad, Faisal Nadeem and Muhammad Ehsan have been added to the US’ list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

“We want to remove the misconceptions of the United States.”

Increasing pressure on Pakistan

The US and India blame LeT for planning and carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which saw at least 160 people killed in a series of coordinated attacks in the Indian port city.

LeT is also blamed for carrying out attacks targeting Indian security forces in the disputed Kashmir region.

LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity but says his group, now operating under the name of its charitable arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), supports the cause of Kashmiris who demand independence from India.


Pakistan releases Hafiz Saeed from house arrest

Saeed was controversially released in November, after a court ordered an end to his house arrestunder anti-terrorism laws, saying the government had failed to prove his involvement in armed activity.

Pakistan has come under increasing international pressure to crack down on armed groups allegedly operating on its soil, including LeT, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

In February, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international illicit financing watchdog, said it would place Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ for failing to do enough to curb illicit financing and money laundering.

MML competing in by-elections

MML candidates have competed in several by-elections since its formation in August last year.

At the time, MML chief Saifullah Khalid said that while Saeed had no role in running the party, he was its ideological leader.

Saeed, LeT and JuD are all subject to UN sanctions, including the freezing of assets, an arms embargo and a ban on international travel.


Two Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters killed in Kashmir raid

Pakistan’s Election Commission had banned the MML from using Saeed’s image in any election banners or campaign materials, a ban the party has regularly flouted. The party’s official registration with the Election Commission remains disputed. 

In February, Pakistan began seizing hospitals and other facilities operated by the JuD, after expanding restrictions placed on the group.

It is unclear, however, if the seized assets are still being operated by JuD.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.



China Says ‘Highly Recognizes’ Pakistan’s Anti-Terror Work

February 28, 2018


China came out in support of Pakistan’s anti-terror financing regime on Tuesday, days after it withdrew opposition against a US-led moveto place Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) watchlist.

“In recent years, Pakistan has made important progress in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terror financing,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press briefing in Beijing.

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China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang — FILE photo

The 37-nation FATF held its plenary meeting in Paris last week where it placed Pakistan on a so-called ‘grey list’ of the countries where terrorist outfits are still allowed to raise funds.


China praises Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts

BEIJING: China on Tuesday said global community should shed bias and take an “objective” look at Pakistan’s efforts on counter terrorism, days after it backed out from supporting its all weather ally at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting which placed Islamabad on terrorist financing watch list.

The 37-nation FATF at its plenary meeting in Paris last week placed Pakistan on a watch list of the countries where terrorist outfits are still allowed to raise funds.

Though Pakistan has not been named, it has to submit the action plan to implement UN Security Council resolutions on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism by April, failing which it would figure in the list.

“Pakistan government and people have made enormous sacrifices for counter terrorism,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here today.

China which earlier opposed the move along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey later backed out after Riyadh under pressure from the US withdrew its opposition in view of the rule that at least support of three members was required to stall the resolution against Pakistan.

“At this stage, the Chinese informed Islamabad that they were opting out as they did not want to ‘lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail’,” Pakistan’s daily Dawn quoted a Pakistani official as saying.

Asked about China’s stand at the Paris meeting, Lu said Pakistan’s efforts (on counter terrorism) also reflected in the financial areas.

“In recent years Pakistan has taken measures to enhance finance regulations and combating financing for terrorism. China highly recognises this,” he said.

“We call on the relevant parties of the international community to view Pakistan’s efforts in an objective and just way, instead of criticising it with bias,” he said.

“As the all-weather partner of Pakistan, China will continue enhancing close coordination and communication with Pakistan in counterterrorism,” Lu said.

The US officials said Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader and Mumbai terrorist attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and his “charities” were top on the list of the groups that the FATF wanted Pakistan to act against.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Credit Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency

The stand by China and Saudi Arabia, which were Pakistan’s closest allies, evoked strong comments in Pakistani media.

“Now that the news from the just-concluded round of meetings of the Financial Action Task Force held in Paris has been digested, it is important to focus on the fact that two countries that we are repeatedly told to think of in brotherly terms — China and Saudi Arabia — both abandoned Pakistan during the proceedings, opening the way for the motion advanced by the US to grey list the country’s financial system,” an editorial in Dawn said.

“If there is one thing to learn from this episode, it must be this: in ties between countries, there are no ‘friends’ and no ‘brothers’. There are only interests and bargaining positions,” the editorial said.

U.S. trying to ’embarrass’ Pakistan with terror financing list

February 26, 2018


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, has brushed off concerns that economic growth will suffer because of the country’s re-inclusion on a terrorist financing watch list, and lashed out against the United States for seeking to “embarrass” his nation.

 Image result for Pakistan finance ministry chief Miftah Ismail, photos

Pakistan’s new finance ministry chief Miftah Ismail speaks with a Reuters correspondent during an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan December 28, 2017. Picture taken December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Washington last week persuaded member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan back on the “grey list” of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls. Pakistan was on the list for three years, until 2015.

The diplomatic setback has sparked anger in Islamabad against United States, which championed the motion against Pakistan at the FATF meeting in Paris. It represented another blow to the worsening relationship between the uneasy allies, who have long differed on how to combat Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan.

It has also heightened concerns that Pakistan is becoming internationally isolated, and that its economy could suffer if global banking intuitions cut links with the nuclear-armed nation, or otherwise increase the cost of doing business with Pakistan.

Ismail, officially the adviser on finance, revenue and economic affairs to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, led Pakistan’s negotiations in Paris. He told Reuters that Washington did not seem genuinely eager to see Pakistan boost its terrorist financing regulations and was instead bent on humiliating the country.

“If the Americans were interested in working with us and improving our CTF (counter-terrorist financing) regulations, they would have taken the offer I was making them,” Ismail said. “But their idea was just to embarrass Pakistan.”

Diplomatic and Pakistani government sources say Pakistan fended off a U.S.-led motion on Tuesday as Turkey, China and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) countries objected to it. But in a break from tradition, the motion was brought up again on Thursday and passed as the GCC and China dropped their objections.

Ismail said that he urged the United States to allow Pakistan until June to fix any outstanding CTF issues and ceded ground in negotiations to strike a deal, but that the U.S. was determined to see Pakistan suffer.

U.S. officials say Pakistan remains weak on terrorist financing prosecutions and has not done enough to combat money-raising capabilities of Islamic charities controlled by Hafiz Saeed, whom the U.S. has designated a terrorist. The officials blame Saeed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

In the run up to the FATF meeting, Pakistan sought to gain favor by seizing control of parts of Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) charities, which the United States terms “terrorist fronts” for militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Saeed, who founded LeT in 1980s, denies orchestrating the Mumbai attacks.

Diplomats have cast doubt on whether the takeovers are long-lasting, or simply a short-term move to appease FATF member states and ease pressure on Pakistan.

Ismail said Pakistan’s law-enforcement shortcomings are often confused for lack of desire, especially at provincial level, where police officers are poorly trained when it comes to terrorist financing legislation.

“The will is there,” he added.

Ismail ruled out Pakistan’s retaliating against Washington over the FATF listing. He said the country would keep working to improve its CTF capabilities and win the confidence of Britain, Germany and France, who co-sponsored the U.S. motion in Paris.

Pakistan hopes to be removed from the grey list in six to 12 months from June, when it will be officially placed on the watch list, Ismail added.


Despite rising growth on the back of improving security and China’s vast infrastructure investment, Pakistan’s economy has come under renewed stress during the past year.

Its foreign currency reserves are shrinking and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Pakistan’s macroeconomic stability is weakening amid a ballooning current account deficit and a widening fiscal deficit.

Ismail said he did not foresee the FATF decision acting as a brake on Pakistan’s economy, which, with growth above 5 percent, is expanding at its fastest pace in a decade.

“I would rather not be in the list, but I don’t think it will hurt” economic growth, Ismail said, adding that ordinary Pakistanis would not see any impact from the FATF move.

He conceded, however, that being placed on the watch list did not help Pakistan’s tarnished image abroad, and “doesn’t help” with its efforts to attract more foreign direct investment, a major goal of the government.

But he urged foreign investors to look past the negative headlines, and pointed out that Pakistan’s economic growth accelerated even during the period the country was last on the watch list. From 2012-2015, exports and foreign currency reserves expanded, while its stock market shot up by more than 200 percent, he said.

“We are focused on improving our economy and overcoming this little hiccup,” he said. “We will continue on our path forward.”

Reporting by Drazen JorgicEditing by Gerry Doyle

Global watchdog to put Pakistan back on terrorist financing watchlist: sources

February 23, 2018


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, a government official and a diplomat said on Friday, in a likely blow to Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the United States.

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A masked protester sits next to a flag of Pakistan during an anti-Indian protest in Srinagar, November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighboring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.

It comes days after reports that Pakistan had been given a three-month reprieve before being placed on the list, which could hamper banking and hurt foreign investment.

The United States has spent the past week lobbying member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan on a so-called grey list of nations that are not doing enough to combat terrorism financing.

Pakistan had launched last-minute efforts to avoid being placed on the list, such as taking over charities linked to a powerful Islamist figure.

But the campaign proved insufficient and the group decided late on Thursday that Pakistan would be put back on the watchlist, a senior Pakistani official and a diplomat with knowledge of the latest FATF discussions told Reuters.

“The decision was taken yesterday. The chair (of FATF) is expected to make a statement some time this afternoon in Paris,” the diplomat said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman declined to confirm or deny the news at a regular news briefing on Friday, saying the FATF would make an announcement on its website.

“Let the things come out, and then we can comment on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship,” spokesman Mohammad Faisal said.

Pakistan was on the list for three years until 2015.


Earlier in the week China, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were opposing the U.S.-led move against Pakistan but by late on Thursday, both China and the GCC dropped their opposition, the diplomatic source said.

He added that the financial consequences would not kick in until June, which, in theory, could allow Pakistan time to fix financing issues.

“But the odds of that, particularly in an election year, seem slim,” he added.

Pakistani officials and analysts fear being on the FATF list could endanger Pakistan’s handful of remaining banking links to the outside world, causing real financial pain to the economy just as a general election looms.

Under FATF rules one country’s opposition is not enough to prevent a motion from being successful. Britain, France and Germany backed the U.S. move.

Pakistan has sought to head off its inclusion on the list by amending its anti-terrorism laws and by taking over organizations controlled by Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistan-based Islamist accused by the United States and India of being behind 2008 militant attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that Pakistan had received a three-month reprieve, adding that it was “grateful to friends who helped”.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month ordered big cuts in security aid to Pakistan over what the United States sees as its failure to crack down on militants.

Pakistan rejects accusations that it sponsors Taliban militants fighting U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan and says it is doing all it can to combat militancy.

Pakistan avoids spot on global terrorism-financing watch list

February 21, 2018

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. (Vasily Maximov/AFP)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not be placed on a global terrorism-financing watch list, foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif revealed in a tweet.
During a meeting in Paris, money-laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) failed to reach agreement on a motion co-sponsored by the United States
“Our efforts paid, no consensus for nominating Pakistan (for the grey list),” Asif posted on Twitter.
However, the decision might only be temporary. He added that the FATF proposed a three month pause, “asking APG (Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering) for another report to be considered in June.”
The APG is an inter-governmental organization, consisting of 41 member jurisdictions including Pakistan, focused on ensuring that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.
Asif also thanked the countries that had supported Pakistan. “Grateful to friends who helped,” he tweeted.
He is currently in Moscow at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and the pair have discussed Islamabad’s concerns about the FATF motion, in an attempt to secure Russian support in opposing it.
The draft resolution to place Pakistan on the FATF list was led by the US, with the support of the UK, France and Germany. US-Pakistani relations hit a new low last year when Washington, unveiled its new strategy for Afghanistan, and accused Islamabad of harboring and supporting terrorists.
The day before Asif’s tweet, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, speaking in Pakistan’s National Assembly, described the FATF motion as “a tactic by the United States to pressure Pakistan.”
He added: “If Pakistan is placed on the watch-list, this will affect our budget and subsequently our military operations against extremists and militants.”
Last year, FATF’s International Cooperation Review Group resolved to scrutinize Pakistan’s perceived support of proscribed groups operating on its soil, and requested a report on the country’s efforts to combat the financing of terrorism.
Pakistan sent a delegation to Paris to defend the country in the face of the motion. It was led by Syed Mansoor Shah, director-general of the financial monitoring unit of State Bank of Pakistan, and included representatives from the Foreign and Interior ministries.
Dr. Miftah Ismail, adviser to the prime minister on finance, also joined the delegation in Paris on February 20. The previous week, he visited Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in an attempt to win support in opposing the motion.
FATF is an intergovernmental body that was established in July 1989 during a Group of Seven (G7) summit in Paris. Its objectives are to set standards and promote the effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
It currently comprises 35 members and two regional organizations, representing most major financial centers around the globe, along with observer countries, organizations and associate members.
Pakistan was on the FATF watch list from 2012 until 2015. It is desperate to avoid the financial restrictions that a return to the list would bring, as it tries to keep its economy growing with help of international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.


Pakistan Hopes Not to Be Placed on Terrorist Financing Watch List

February 20, 2018


FILE - A photo shows a Facebook site that features one of India’s most wanted, Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned organization and a U.S. declared terrorist group, in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 7, 2017.

FILE – A photo shows a Facebook site that features one of India’s most wanted, Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned organization and a U.S. declared terrorist group, in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 7, 2017.

The United States and its European allies are trying to put Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watch list for failing to comply with anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering regulations.

They are making their case to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body that combats terrorist financing and money laundering, at a meeting that concludes later this month in Paris.

“I hope that the international community does not take any actions that prevent our efforts to fight against terrorism,” Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s interior minister, told the media Monday.

A published report says Iqbal called Washington’s efforts an insult to his country’s sacrifices in the war on terror.

Pakistan was on the list from 2012 to 2015. With new signs that its economy is entering choppy waters, the return of the designation could further deter foreign investment and hurt Pakistan’s access to international financial markets.

In an attempt to demonstrate compliance with international anti-terrorist financing regulation, Pakistan amended its anti-terrorism law last week. The change authorizes the government to blacklist charities linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed. Saeed has been wanted by the United States since 2012 for planning the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

The list includes Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its subsidiary, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), which according to experts, serve as the front organizations for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a U.S and European Union-designated terrorist group that is accused of carrying out attacks in India.

FILE - A supporter of Islamic charity organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) carries a sign during a protest demonstration in Karachi.
FILE – A supporter of Islamic charity organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) carries a sign during a protest demonstration in Karachi.

The FATF meetings in Paris will involve more than 700 delegates from the 203 jurisdictions of the Global Network, including the U.N., the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany are expected to introduce the motion to FATF and suggest placing Pakistan on a global terrorist financing watch list.

Expert opinion

Some analysts in Washington believe that once Pakistan is placed on the so-called gray list, it would be difficult to be taken off.

“This sanction would eliminate the opportunities that could be used to solve other problems,” said Stephen Tankel, assistant professor in the School of International Service at American University.

Economists are concerned that placing Pakistan on the gray list would not only close the doors of financial aid to the country, but would prevent it from exporting its goods.

Mike Casey, a partner at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm in London, told Reuters that the decision would heighten Pakistan’s risk profile, and some financial institutions would be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and counterparties.

“Others might elect to avoid Pakistan altogether, viewing the legal risks associated with doing business there to outweigh any economic benefits,” he said.

But Daniel Markey, a South Asia expert at the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University, told The Associated Press that the downgrade would be primarily symbolic, demonstrating the Trump administration’s intent to ratchet up the pressure.

“It suggests that more serious moves could be coming,” Markey said, noting the U.S. could exercise similar pressure if Pakistan seeks a bailout from the IMF.

Washington suspended aid worth $2 billion to Pakistan last year, and is pressuring Islamabad to cut its alleged ties to Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies any links with militants.

VOA Deewa contributed to this report.

Pakistan, Seeing New Pressure from the West, Moves Against a Militant Group

February 15, 2018

Islamabad hopes to avoid international terror financing watchlist as it seeks access to international financial markets

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JuD says it rejects ‘misleading and malicious assertions’ by the US State and Treasury departments [File-EPA]

Pakistan is hoping to head off an attempt by the Trump administration to exert further pressure over terrorism by putting the country on a global terror financing watch list, according to a senior Pakistani official.

Miftah Ismail, adviser to the country’s prime minister and Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, said that the country had in recent days undertaken a wide-ranging crackdown on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, which also is known as JuD and is blamed by the United Nations for the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai, which killed 166 people.

Washington has pressed Pakistan to take action against Islamist militants on its soil, and blamed the country for giving sanctuary to Afghan insurgents, announcing last month that it is withholding $2 billion in security assistance.

The international Financial Action Task Force, meeting in Paris next week, will consider a proposal by the U.S., co-sponsored by the U.K. and other Western governments, to put Pakistan on a list of countries that don’t comply with international regulations to squeeze financing of terrorist groups, said Mr. Ismail.

U.S. officials wouldn’t confirm that it had proposed Pakistan for the terror financing watch list, saying the process was confidential.

But the Treasury and other top Trump administration officials aired their concerns about Pakistan’s oversight of terror financing.

“The international community’s longstanding concerns about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money-laundering/counterterrorism finance regime are well documented,” a Treasury spokesman said in a statement.

A British official briefed on the matter echoed the sentiment. “It is important that Pakistan follows through on its FATF and UNSCR commitments to tackle the threat from terrorist groups,” the official said. “Whilst we recognize that Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorism, it has not made sufficient progress against the recommendations in FATF reports.”

Pakistan has seized some 200 properties belonging to JuD, including schools, religious seminaries, clinics and mosques. The government has taken over the group’s sprawling campus outside Lahore and, under a law passed this week, banned the group, said Mr. Ismail. The authorities also have seized more than 200 ambulances run by the group’s charity arm, he said.

“We’re taken the wind out of the sails of this proposal,” Mr. Ismail said, adding that the proposal focused on JuD. “We’ve basically done away with these organizations.”

In a statement, JuD said the government was closing down the group’s operations to please the U.S. and India. “This action has also affected thousands of poor people getting help from these institutions,” the group said.

It was unclear whether the Pakistan action, aimed at making Islamabad comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, would satisfy Washington and the other sponsors of the nomination. Even if it doesn’t assuage them, Pakistan hopes to get enough support from other countries to block the nomination.

It wasn’t immediately apparent if JuD’s headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, was still functional. The group’s leader, Hafiz Saeed, who was released by a Pakistani court from house arrest last year, lives in Lahore. JuD’s new political arm has taken part in a series of by-elections in recent months.

Being put on the FATF watch list likely would complicate the country’s ability to access international financial markets, add further scrutiny to international banking transactions, and create more red tape for Pakistan’s exporters. Pakistan was on the watch list from 2012 to 2015.

Greater damage would likely occur to the country’s reputation, as it seeks to attract foreign investment and project an image of a more “normal” country, said experts.

Washington’s concern over JuD, which targets India, is separate from its demand from Pakistan for action against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which fight in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump has voiced his frustration over Pakistan, saying they “give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

Islamabad denies that there are any sanctuaries for militants on its territory and says that it has taken action against all groups “without discrimination”.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that Pakistan’s recent operations against the Taliban and related groups operating within the country weren’t adequate.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray (from left), CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo testify before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“The actions taken thus far do not reflect a significant escalation of pressure against these groups, and are unlikely to have a lasting effect,” Mr. Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Pakistan-based militant groups continue to take advantage of their safe haven to conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including U.S. interests therein.”

Last month, the Trump administration levied new sanctions against several Taliban financiers who the U.S. Treasury said have been fundraising in Pakistan.

Write to Saeed Shah at, Ian Talley at and Dion Nissenbaum at

Pakistan plans takeover of charities run by Islamist figure U.S. has targeted

January 2, 2018


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s government plans to seize control of charities and financial assets linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who Washington has designated a terrorist, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.

Pakistan’s civilian government detailed its plans in a secret order to various provincial and federal government departments on Dec. 19, three officials who attended one of several high-level meeting discussing the crackdown told Reuters.

Marked “secret”, a Dec. 19 document from the finance ministry directed law enforcement and governments in Pakistan’s five provinces to submit an action plan by Dec. 28 for a “takeover” of Saeed’s two charities, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

The United States has labeled JuD and FIF “terrorist fronts” for Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure” or LeT), a group Saeed founded in 1987 and which Washington and India blame for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

Image result for Hafiz Saeed, photos

Hafiz Saeed. AP photo

Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks and a Pakistani court saw insufficient evidence to convict him. The LeT could not be reached for comment.

The Dec. 19 document, which refers to “Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issues”, names only Saeed’s two charities and “actions to be taken” against them.

The FATF, an international body that combats money laundering and terrorist financing, has warned Pakistan it faces inclusion on a watch list for failing to crack down on financing terrorism.

Asked about a crackdown on JuD and FIF, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who co-chaired one of the meetings on the plan, responded only generally, saying he has ordered authorities “to choke the fundraising of all proscribed outfits in Pakistan”.

In a written reply to Reuters, he also said Pakistan wasn’t taking action under U.S. pressure. “We’re not pleasing anyone. We’re working as a responsible nation to fulfill our obligations to our people and international community.”

In response to the Reuters article, JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said the organization will go to court if the government decides to take over JuD and FIF.

“We will not keep silent. We will fight a legal battle,” Mujahid said in statement, terming the government move illegal.

Saeed could not be reached for comment. He has frequently denied having ties to militants and says the charitable organizations he founded and controls have no terrorism ties. He says he promotes an Islamic-oriented government through doing good works.

On Monday, some of the first directives from the proposed crackdown were put in place.

The country’s financial regulator, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), issued an order that “prohibits” all companies from donating money to Saeed, LeT, JuD, FiF and other groups and individuals who are named on the U.N. Security Council sanctions lists.

In the capital Islamabad, the district magistrate banned proscribed organizations from “fund-raising in any kind and social, political, welfare and religious activities by these groups”, according to an order reviewed by Reuters.

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FILE PHOTO: Hafiz Saeed is showered with flower petals as he walks to court before a Pakistani court ordered his release from house arrest in Lahore, Pakistan November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo

The two-month ban, which can be extended, was put into place “to curb the terrorist acts and assistance activities carried out by the proscribed organizations and their subsidiary welfare wings,” the document said.


If the government follows through with the plan, it would mark the first time Pakistan has made a major move against Saeed’s network, which includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services. The JuD and FIF alone have about 50,000 volunteers and hundreds of other paid workers, according to two counter-terrorism officials.

Participants at the meeting raised the possibility that the government’s failure to act against the charities could lead to U.N. sanctions, one of the three officials said. A U.N. Security Council team is due to visit Pakistan in late January to review progress against U.N.-designated “terrorist” groups.

Hafiz Saeed (C) reacts to supporters as he walks out of court after a Pakistani court ordered his release from house arrest in Lahore, Pakistan November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

“Any adverse comments or action suggested by the team can have far-reaching implications for Pakistan,” the official said.

The Dec. 19 document gave few details about how the state would take over Saeed’s charities, pending the plans submitted from the provincial governments. It did say it would involve government entities taking over ambulance services and accounting for other vehicles used by the charities.

It says law enforcement agencies will coordinate with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to identify the assets of the two charities and examine how they raise money.

The document also directs that the name of JuD’s 200-acre headquarters, Markaz-e-Taiba, near the eastern city of Lahore be changed to something else ”to make it known that the Government of “Punjab (province) solely manages and operates the Markaz(headquarters)”.

The move to seize the charities could spark some concern from the powerful military, which has proposed plans to steer Saeed and the JuD into mainstream politics. The military did not respond to a request for comment.

In August, JuD officials formed a new political party, the Milli Muslim League, and backed candidates who fared relatively strongly in two key parliamentary by-elections.

The JuD publicly disavows armed militancy inside Pakistan, but offers vocal support for the cause of rebel fighters in Indian-administered Kashmir and has called for Pakistan to retake Kashmir. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed region.

Washington, which has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed’s conviction over the Mumbai attacks, warned Islamabad of repercussions after a Pakistani court in late November released him from house arrest.

Punjab’s provincial government had put Saeed under house arrest for 10 months this year for violating anti-terrorism laws.

Writing on Twitter on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States has “foolishly” handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years while getting nothing in return and pledged to put a stop to it.

Palestinians recall envoy after rally with radical Pakistan cleric

December 31, 2017

Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, addresses an anti-US and Israel an earlier rally in Lahore on December 17. (AFP)
ISLAMABAD: The Palestinians have withdrawn their envoy to Pakistan after he appeared at a rally with a radical cleric linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Palestinian envoy Walid Abu Ali shared the stage with Hafiz Saeed, the head of the hard-line Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement, at Friday’s rally, which was held to protest US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The rally in Rawalpindi, attended by thousands, was organized by the Defense of Pakistan Council, an alliance of religious parties dominated by Saeed’s group. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for Lashker-e-Taiba, a militant group that fights Indian troops in the disputed region of Kashmir, and which was blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.
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Palestine ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali (L), seated next to Hafiz Saeed at a rally in Rawalpindi. (Photo via Twitter)
Saeed, the founder of Lashker-e-Taiba, is wanted by the US, which has offered a $10 million reward for his arrest, but Pakistan has refused extradition requests and allows him to operate relatively freely. He was recently placed under house arrest for 11 months but was released after a court ruled in his favor.
Saeed denies involvement in the 2008 attacks, and Pakistan says India has not provided enough evidence to charge him. US officials have long accused Pakistan of harboring extremists, allegations denied by Islamabad.
In a statement Saturday addressed to India, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the envoy’s participation “in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism” was “an unintended mistake, but not justified.” It said the envoy has been recalled.
India had lodged a protest with the Palestinians earlier Saturday, calling the envoy’s association with Saeed “unacceptable.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry defended the envoy, saying it welcomed his “active participation in events organized to express solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
Near-daily rallies have been held in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this month, a move seen as siding with the Jewish state against the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Who are the “anti-blasphemy” Islamists wielding new political influence in Pakistan?

December 3, 2017

The public perception after the crackdown against protestors is overwhelmingly anti-PML(N), while the Pakistan military has gained more sympathy for refusing the act against them. The stage has now been set for the PML(N) exit in the elections next year

Written by Umer Ali | Updated: December 1, 2017 10:43 am

pakistan, pakistan protests, pakistan blasphemy laws, pakistan protests blasphemy laws, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool-ullah, pakistan news, indian express, indian express news

Members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan far right Islamist political party shout slogans during a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 10, 2017. Reuters

The last three weeks have laid bare Pakistan’s claims of countering extremist ideology, both militarily and ideologically. The state shut down social media websites and TV channels in order to counter protesting supporters of the newly-formed religious party, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool-ullah around Islamabad, and ordered the deployment of troops to restore order. But as a clear sign of insubordination, the military instead objected to the way the protest was handled.

It is important to explore the genesis of TLYP – a group of Barelvi religious organizations behind these protests. For decades, the Deobandi-Salafist groups championed the cause of violent jihad in Pakistan, while the Barelvi groups mostly remained apolitical and non-violent. However, unlike the common belief that only Deobandi-Salafist groups apostatize other sects, Barelvi literature is also rich with fatwas against the followers of other Islamic sects. One reason why Barelvi groups weren’t radicalized during the Afghan jihad is because the Saudi funding to fight the Soviet Union was directed towards Deobandi and Salafist groups due to their ideological affinity. However, over the past few years, Barelvi groups have gained significant political influence and street power.

Barelvi (Urduبَریلوِی‎, BarēlwīUrdu pronunciation: [bəreːlʋi]) is a term used for the movement following the SunniHanafi school of jurisprudence, originating in Bareilly with over 200 million followers in South Asia.[1] The name derives from the north Indian town of Bareilly, the hometown of its founder and main leader Ahmed Raza Khan (1856–1921).[2][3][4][5][6] Although Barelvi is the commonly used term in the media and academia, the followers of the movement often prefer to be known by the title of Ahle Sunnat wa Jama’at, (Urduاہل سنت وجماعت‎) or as Sunnis, a reference to their perception as forming an international majority movement.

Since then, Qadri, a Barelvi himself, became the poster boy for Barelvi religious groups. They now champion the ishq-i-rasool (love for the prophet), and remain at the forefront of anti-blasphemy campaigning in Pakistan. The much-needed catalyst to bring their followers on the streets was the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri to death. TLYP was born out of the protests against Qadri’s death. The current leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi gained fame through his fiery speeches against the government.

Unlike the several militant outfits which turned on the military after Pakistan decided to aid the United States’ war on terror in Afghanistan, TLYP focuses its criticism on the civilian government, and not the military. Unlike the Deobandis and Salafis, experts say, Barelvi leaders pose as pro-army and pro-state, who want themselves affiliated with the army, thus giving an impression that everything they are doing is lawful.

This stands true in the current fiasco as well, when General Qamar Bajwa reportedly refused to deploy the military to disperse the protestors, saying “they are our people”. Now that a deal has been struck between the government and the protestors with the arbitration of an ISI Major General, and Law minister Zahid Hamid has resigned, several questions arise: why did an ISI General act as an arbitrator between the government and protestors? If the government was willing to accept the protestors’ demand, why wait for three weeks? Perhaps, the military pressurized the government to accept the protestors’ demands.

The deal itself has been subject to severe criticism by various quarters, with leading commentators describing it as “surrender”. Unfortunately, such deals were struck with the likes of TTP leaders Mullah Fazlullah in Swat and Nek Muhammad in Waziristan, but ultimately, the state had to launch military operations against them.

If one was to learn from those experiences, accepting the demands of an outlawed group is acknowledging them as stakeholders, which only worsens the situation. With this deal as well, the government conformed to the outrageous demands of a small group of protestors – setting another very bad precedent.

Now that someone’s faith is subject to suspicion by a mob, it is clear the mob won’t stop with Zahid Hamid. According to some reports, Punjab Law minister Rana Sanaullah needs to testify his belief in the finality of Prophethood in front of some clerics. If this continues, no one even with a slightly dissenting opinion will be able to live peacefully in Pakistan.

However, there is another important factor to be considered. The military in Pakistan has a history of using religious groups to further their agenda. Currently, the establishment is working hard to destroy the PML(N) votebank ahead of the 2018 general elections. What better way to do so but pitting Barelvism – a large part of the Pakistani population adheres to this school of thought – against the PML(N) ?

The signs have been there. In the recent by-elections for the National Assembly seat vacated by the disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, TLYP received more than 7,000 votes, while the Milli Muslim League – a political front of the banned LeT (or JuD) – received more than 5,500 votes. Both parties built their campaigns based solely on anti-PML(N) rhetoric.

One reason the military establishment is now relying on Barelvi groups is because the previous “assets” have now become a liability. Pakistan faces continuous pressure from the international community for not acting against terror groups like Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or its previous incarnation, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. By using the Barelvi groups, over an issue as sensitive as blasphemy, the military establishment might be preparing alternative assets to be deployed against their political rivals in Pakistan. The public perception after the government crackdown against protestors is overwhelmingly anti-PML(N), while the Pakistan military has gained more sympathy for refusing the act against them. Pakistan’s ultra-conservative population believe they were fighting for a noble cause.

The stage has now been set for the PML(N) exit in the elections next year, but at a hefty cost. A dangerous precedent has been set, and the majority Muslim sect has been weaponized. History is repeating itself in Pakistan.

Umer Ali is an award-winning Pakistani journalist who has reported extensively on terrorism, blasphemy, and human rights. He tweets @iamumer1

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Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan an Islamist political party, attends Friday prayers during a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood Reuters