Pak plans takeover of Hafiz-run charities

Pak plans takeover of Hafiz-run charities

Pak plans takeover of Hafiz-run charities

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 December 19, three officials who attended one of several high-level meeting discussing the crackdown told Reuters.

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

The United States has labelled 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.

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 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 US pressure. "We're not pleasing anyone. We're working as a responsible nation to fulfil our obligations to our people and international community."

In response to the Reuters article, JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said the organisation 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 organisations 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 UN Security Council sanctions lists.

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

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

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