A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Friday convicted and sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi on charges of terror financing, though India dismissed the development as a “farcical” action made with an eye on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The anti-terrorism court in Lahore found Lakhvi guilty under three sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act for running a dispensary to raise funds for terror financing. The judge gave Lakhvi separate five-year prison terms under each section, to be served concurrently.
The court also imposed fines totalling Pakistan Rs 300,000 on Lakhvi and said he would face additional jail time of 18 months if he failed to pay up. Lakhvi was present in court during the hearing and judge Ejaz Ahmad Buttar directed police to send him to jail to serve his sentence.
This is the first time that Lakhvi, accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has been convicted of a terrorism-related offense. However, a spokesman for the Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan’s Punjab province told media he had been arrested for terror financing and not for any “specific militant attack”.
In New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, told a regular news briefing hours after the sentencing, that Pakistan’s “farcical actions” appeared to be aimed at an upcoming review by the FATF of the country’s efforts to counter terror financing. He also called for “credible action” by Pakistan against terror groups.
“The timing of these actions clearly suggests the intention of conveying a sense of compliance ahead of the APG (Asia-Pacific Group) meeting and the next FATF plenary meeting in February. It has become routine for Pakistan to come up with such farcical actions prior to important meetings,” he said.
“UN-proscribed entities and designated terrorists act as proxies for the Pakistani establishment to fulfil its anti-India agenda. It is for the international community to hold Pakistan to account and ensure that it takes credible action against terror groups, terror infrastructure and individual terrorists,” he added.
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Lakhvi was convicted and sentenced in his first appearance in court after his arrest on terror financing charges on January 2. The judge said in his order that the prosecution had proved Lakhvi was using the dispensary to raise funds to finance terrorism and that there was “sufficient evidence in the form of oral testimonies”.
The court also directed authorities to arrest Lakhvi’s associate, Abu Anas Mohsin, who was involved in running the dispensary.
The court’s order said Lakhvi will serve his sentence in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, where he was held earlier after he was arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks. He was freed on bail in 2015 but reports had suggested that he had continued to guide the LeT’s operations even when he was in jail earlier.
Last year, LeT founder Hafiz Saeed was convicted and sentenced in five separate cases of terror financing. He was given prison terms ranging from five years to fifteen-and-half years that will run concurrently. Several close aides of Saeed were also sentenced in cases of terror financing.
Pakistan was retained in FATF’s “grey list” last year for failing to fully deliver on an action plan to fight terror financing, and the multilateral watchdog has given the country time till February to address what it said were “very serious deficiencies”. The FATF’s plenary and working group meetings during February 21-26 will review Pakistan’s case, and this will be preceded by another assessment by APG.