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Why has Pakistan indicted Hafiz Saeed, India's most wanted, now?

Saeed's indictment comes amidst growing pressure on Pakistan to rein-in terror groups and bring to justice terror group leaders. ​​The indictment comes less than a week after Islamabad submitted a report to the FATF, which, in October, had kept the country on the Grey List, asking that it take more concrete steps to avoid being put on the Black List.

TIMESOFINDIA.COM|
Updated: Dec 12, 2019, 05.50 PM IST
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Hafiz Saeed (Reuters file photo)
(This story originally appeared in on Dec 12, 2019)
NEW DELHI: Four days after an anti-terrorism court in Lahore failed to indict Hafiz Saeed, founder of both Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its supposedly humanitarian arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), following the failure of Pakistan's law enforcement agencies to produce a co-accused in the court, Saeed was finally indicted by the court on charges of terror financing on Wednesday.

LeT was responsible for the killings of 160 people, including Americans, in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Along with Saeed, three of his top aides -- Hafiz Abdul Salam bin Muhammad, Muhammad Ashraf and Zafar Iqbal -- were also indicted on terror financing charges.

WHY NOW?
Saeed's indictment comes amidst growing international pressure on Pakistan to rein-in terror groups operating from its soil and bring to justice terror group leaders like Saeed.

The indictment comes less than a week after Islamabad submitted a report to the Paris-based terror financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which, in October, had kept the country on the Grey List, asking that it take more concrete steps to avoid being put on the Black List. FATF, which has a meeting scheduled with Pakistan’s delegation in January 2020 to enable it to present its defence, had listed 22 points on which it said Pakistan had failed to comply.

It gave a deadline of February 2020 for Pakistan to comply in order to decide on its fate — on whether to remove it from the Grey List, transfer it to the Black List or keep it on the Grey List for more time.

Blacklisting by the FATF can hamper the inflow of loans to a country, which can only be through banks who will conduct due diligence for every transaction — being on the grey list has cost Pakistan $10 billion a year.

STRATEGIC TIMING
Pakistan's actions against Saeed have curiously been timed to various bilateral or multilateral events, especially those where its Prime Minister Imran Khan has participated. Saeed’s arrest in July came days before Khan’s maiden trip to the US as PM, in a bid to placate US President Donald Trump who has been extremely critical of Islamabad’s failure to check terrorism originating from its territory.

Saeed, who carries a bounty of $10 million on his head, was held guilty on charges of terror financing by Pakistan's counter terrorism department, about a month and a half before Khan’s UN trip in September. Actions against Saeed have also seen an uptick ever since China, Pakistan's closest ally, assumed presidentship of FATF from July 1 — in fact, two days later, on July 3, Saeed and 12 of his associates were booked in several cases for terror financing and money laundering.

US APPROVES
The United States has welcomed Saeed's indictment and urged Pakistan to ensure an expeditious trial.

"We welcome the indictment of Hafiz Saeed and his associates. We call for #Pakistan to ensure a full prosecution and expeditious trial in line with its intl obligations to counter terrorist financing and bring the perpetrators of terrorist attacks like 26/11 to justice," Alice G Wells, US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia said in a tweet.

INDIA'S STANCE CLEAR
India says Pakistan has allowed Saeed to roam freely and was not interested in bringing him to justice.

Referring to the Mumbai terror attacks trial in Pakistan at a briefing on December 6, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We all know who the perpetrators of the attack were. We all know who the mastermind is. We are also aware that the mastermind of this attack is roaming freely, he is enjoying Pakistan's hospitality."

"We are also aware about the link this attack had to the elements within the Pakistani establishment. There is a certain responsibility they have, they have an International obligation to take action. You are also aware that we have shared all the evidence with them. Now it is the responsibility of Pakistan to take action," he said.
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