Mumbai attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was sentenced to 5 years in jail on Friday by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Lahore in a terror financing case, amidst growing international pressure on Islamabad to bring to justice terrorists roaming free in the country.
Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Lahore Judge Ejaz Ahmad Buttar sentenced UN proscribed terrorist Lakhvi to five years of rigorous imprisonment each on three counts with a fine of PKR 100,000 (approximately USD 620) each on three counts. His punishment will run concurrently.
"The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Lahore convicted Lakhvi for commission of offences of terrorism financing in a case registered by the CTD for 15 years under different sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997," a court official told PTI after the hearing.
"In default of payment of fine, he will have to undergo an imprisonment of six months each on three counts. He has been sent to prison to serve the sentences," the official said.
Lakhvi pleaded before the court that he was "falsely implicated" in this case. He was accused of running a dispensary and using funds collected for terrorism financing.
"He and others also collected funds from this dispensary and used these funds for further terrorism financing. He also used these funds for personal expenses," the CTD said.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the timing of these actions clearly suggests the intention of conveying a sense of compliance ahead of APJG (Asia Pacific Joint Group) meet and the next FATF (Financial Action Task Force) plenary meet in February 2021.
"It has become routine for Pakistan to come up with farcical actions prior to important meetings," he said when asked about the jail sentence to Lakhvi, and issuance of an arrest warrant against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar by another Pakistan court.
"UN proscribed entities and designated terrorists act as proxies for 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," Mr Srivastava said.
Interestingly, Lakhvi was presented before the Lahore ATC on Friday and was convicted the same day in the terror financing case registered against him some time ago.
The court was told that Lakhvi, a resident of Renal Khurd Okara district of Punjab, was living in Islamabad before his arrest in this case.
Lakhvi, 61, who was on bail since 2015 in the Mumbai attack case, was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab province on Saturday.
He was designated as a global terrorist by the UN in December 2008 for being associated with LeT and al-Qaeda and for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of" both the entities.
Proscribed terrorists and entities are subject to an assets freeze, wherein all states are required to freeze funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities, a travel ban that prevents the entry into or transit through nations' territories by the designated individuals and an arms embargo.
Last month, the UN Security Council's 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee allowed for a monthly payment of Pakistani Rupee 1.5 lakh for Lakhvi to meet his personal expenses.
The permission was granted 10 days before his arrest. Lakhvi has named his son Hafizur Rehman and brother Saadat Bashir Waheed who would send him PKR 90,000 and PKR 60,000 respectively in his bank account. He said that his son and brother both have the bank accounts in the same branch.
The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is instrumental in pushing Pakistan to take measures against terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and using its territory to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere.
The Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on the Grey List in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala issued an arrest warrant for banned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar on the charges of terror financing.
The court issued the warrant against Azhar during a hearing in a terror financing case instituted by the Counter Terrorism Department of Punjab police against some members of the JeM.
The LeT, led by Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The UN has named Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice.