Just ahead of the global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for Jaish-e-Mohmmad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar.
The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Gujranwala issued the warrant during a hearing in a terror financing case instituted by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab police against some members of the JeM.
“ATC Gujranwala judge Natasha Naseem Supra issued an arrest warrant for Masood Azhar and directed the CTD to arrest him and present him in the court. The CTD told the judge the JeM chief was involved in terror financing and selling jihadi literature,” an official said.
He said the ATC judge issued the arrest warrant for Azhar on the request of a CTD inspector.
This comes ahead of meetings of the FATF in January and February, which will consider Pakistan’s ‘greylist’ status.
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.
Following the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 in India, Pakistan’s Punjab province police had launched a crackdown on terrorism financing and in this connection arrested six activists of the JeM in Gujranwala, some 130kms from Lahore.
Following immense international pressure after the Pulwama attack, the Pakistan government had arrested over 100 members of banned militant outfits including the JeM chief’s son and brother. The government also took control of the JeM, Mumbai terror attack mastermind Haifiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah (uD) and Falahai Insaniat Foundation (FIF) properties including seminaries and mosques across the country.
JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.
In May 2019, the United Nations designated Azhar a “global terrorist” as being associated with Al-Qaeda for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to”, “recruiting for”, “otherwise supporting acts or activities of”, and “other acts or activities indicating association with” the JeM.