As the October deadline for the review meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is coming close, Pakistan has made yet another desperate attempt to shield JuD chief and Lashkar-e-Taiba patron Hafiz Saeed. Security experts said Islamabad is trying to mislead the global anti-terror financing watchdog to avoid being blacklisted as well as to save the top terror perpetrators roaming freely on their soil.
In a recent judgement, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan convicted three terrorists associated with LeT, JuD and its affiliate Al Hamad Trust on charges of using their properties for terrorism and terror financing, ostensibly to show the crackdown on the outfit.
Malik Zafar Iqbal, president of the proscribed Al Hamad Trust; Hafiz Abdul Salim, secretary of the Al Hamad Trust and Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, vice president of Al Hamad Trust, were convicted by the Lahore court on August 28.
However, the court awarded a total of six years imprisonment to Iqbal and Salim with a fine of Pakistani rupees one lakh each while Makki was let off with one-and-a-half-year in jail and a fine of Pakistani rupees 20,000.
Makki is the brother-in-law of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. He also heads the political and international affairs wing of the JuD.
Top security sources said that the court let him off with a minor punishment saying that since he is the vice president of the trust, he cannot take important decisions of the organisation.
"The fact is that since Makki is related to Saeed and is an important functionary of the JuD, which is the parent organisation of Lashkar, he has been shielded. The token measures have been taken to show the FATF that Islamabad is addressing the 27 action plan items it was supposed to complete to avoid being blacklisted," said an official.
Pakistan was put on the FATF grey list in June 2018 during the FATF plenary and was directed to implement several action plans. Since then, Pakistan has been making desperate attempts to demonstrate some actions against the terror groups on its soil. However, during the sixth FATF joint group meeting, most countries except China have expressed their displeasure at Pakistan's poor performance to implement the FATF action plans.
Now, at a time when Pakistan's FATF review is due in October, Islamabad is struggling to balance its attempts to shield main terror perpetrators and also to implement the FATF action plan.
Besides Makki, Sajid Mir, one of the chief perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, is still roaming freely despite mounting evidence of his involvement in the terror strike. India and the United States have been demanding his conviction and extradition.
Similarly, another mastermind of Mumbai attacks, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, has been released from jail more than half a decade ago and is learnt to be staying at an ISI guesthouse. Lakhvi's son-in-law Yusuf Muzammil, another terrorist involved in Mumbai attacks, is also operating from the ISI-controlled facility. More importantly, Hafiz Saeed, despite being convicted and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, is believed to be staying at an ISI safe house.
Sources said contrary to steps being displayed by Pakistan to showcase its action against some terror groups, the terror outfits like Lashkar are expanding their activities in new theatres and rapidly promoting their affiliate organisations. According to intelligence reports, there is involvement of state actors in doing so. It is learnt that one Major Haroon has been appointed as head of Afghan operations while Abdul Rahman Makki has been appointed as head of eastern front missions.