Trump hails arrest of Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed the arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed — chief of the banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) — who India and Washington accuse of being the mastermind of the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks and have declared a global terrorist.

Trump, who didn’t name Saeed, said: “After a ten-year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!”

Hafiz Saeed — who has a $10 million US bounty on his head — was taken into custody earlier in the day by counter-terrorism forces in a terror financing case. He has been sent to prison on judicial remand. Trump’s tweet comes days before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s scheduled visit to Washington on July 22. The tweet refers to a “10-year search” although Saeed’s whereabouts were known to the authorities in Pakistan.

Saeed was previously placed under house arrest in January 2017. He, however, was released in November the same year after a court rejected the government’s plea for a 60-day extension in his house arrest.

“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” the State Department had said hours after Saeed’s release. The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan,” the department had said, adding that “LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens”.

The US Treasury Depart­ment branded the LeT chief a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2008 and in December 2008, the United Nations also designated him a “terrorist individual”. Both designations blamed him for the November 2008 Mumbai attack in which 166 people, including six American citizens, were killed.

Since 2012, the United States has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.

Judicial remand:

Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was on Wednesday arrested in connection with a terrorism financing case while on his way from Lahore to Gujranwala, officials of the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department confirmed.

According to a spokesperson for CTD Punjab, Saeed was sent to prison on judicial remand after the counter-terrorism department presented him before a Gujranwala anti-terrorism court (ATC). The CTD has been directed to complete its investigation and submit a charge sheet to the court in the stipulated time.

Earlier, according to CTD sources, Saeed was arrested by CTD Punjab in the Gujranwala jurisdiction while he was on his way to an ATC in Gujranwala to seek bail.

On July 3, the top 13 leaders of the banned JuD, 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, which registered the cases in five cities of Punjab, declared that the JuD was financing terrorism from the massive funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts, including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, Muaz Bin Jabal Trust, etc.

These non-profit organisations were banned in April as the CTD during detailed investigations found that they had links with the JuD and its top leadership, accused of financing terrorism by building huge assets/properties from the collected funds in Pakistan.

On Monday, a Lahore High Court division bench sought replies from the Ministry of Interior, Punjab home department and CTD on a petition filed by JuD chief Saeed and his seven aides challenging an FIR carrying a charge of terror financing.