Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested on Wednesday by Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department in Punjab province, reports said. Saeed was travelling from Lahore to Gujranwala when he was arrested, according to Geo News. He is the alleged mastermind of the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
The JuD chief was intercepted near Gujranwala city and arrested on terror financing charges, an unidentified official from the department told PTI.
“The main charge is that he is gathering funds for banned outfits, which is illegal,” Reuters quoted a spokesperson for Punjab Governor Shahbaz Gill as saying. Saeed, who has several cases against him, was on his way to Gujranwala to appear before an anti-terrorism court.
Saeed was produced before an Anti-Terrorism Court in Gujranwala, which sent him to judicial remand for seven days, the official said. He was moved to Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail, where former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also lodged.
The department issued a statement saying that Saeed had been arrested in a case registered in Gujranwala and will face trial in the city’s Anti-Terrorism Court.
On July 3, the Counter-Terrorism Department had registered 23 cases against Saeed and 12 accomplices for using five trusts to “funnel funds to terror suspects”, The Express Tribune reported.
The Counter Terrorism Department filed the cases in five cities of Punjab province. It alleged that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was financing terrorism from funds collected through non-profit organisations and trusts such as Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa is believed to be a front for the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. In March, Islamabad had added Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation to its list of proscribed organisations.
An anti-terrorism court in Lahore had granted pre-arrest bail to Saeed and three others on Monday in a case pertaining to the outfit’s alleged illegal use of land for its seminary.
JuD spokesperson Nadeem Awan on Wednesday said that the outfit was going to challenge Saeed’s arrest in court. “The cases against him are all related to fundraising,” Al Jazeera quoted him as saying. “He is charged with terrorism financing. We are going to the High Court, and we will continue to use legal means to fight the injustice against us, and we believe the courts will support us.”
Saeed’s arrest came ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States, News18 reported. The move also followed a warning in June from the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog, that Pakistan could be put on its blacklist for not meeting the deadline to implement an action plan to curb terror financing.
Meanwhile, Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case, called Saeed’s arrest “a drama”. “Pakistan is fooling the world that they have arrested him, we have to see how they produce evidence in courts and how efforts are made to convict him, otherwise it is a drama,” ANI quoted him as saying.