Pakistan, under its new Prime Minister Imran Khan, claims to be taking bold action against banned militant organizations that have a presence on its turf. Yet, at the same time, it is asking the United Nations to provide monetary relief from internationally-imposed sanctions for five terrorists who are part of a group that was responsible for the Mumbai attacks that took the lives of nearly 200 people in India in 2008.
The three most prominent jihadi militant groups the Pakistani military supports are Hizb‐ul‐Mujahideen (HuM), Lashkar‐e‐Taiba (Let), and Jaish‐e‐Mohammad (JeM); in spite of the fact that these groups are officially banned by the Pakistani government. LeT, in particular, has traditionally been very close to the Pakistani military.
Documents exclusive to The Investigative Journal, by award-winning exiled Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui who fled to Paris after narrowly escaping an armed abduction in 2018, reveal that the Pakistani government recently approached the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on behalf of five individuals who are on the UN list of terrorists to get monetary relief from UN sanctions. In these documents, the terrorists list their monthly living expenses and list their requested amount for items such as groceries, rent, utility charges, medical treatments, taxes, and school fees for their children.
In August, Pakistan asked for monetary relief for Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist Attacks and head of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front for the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT); Lakhsar-e-Taiba translates to “Army of the Good”). One month later, in September, Saeed was granted sanctions relief by the UN. He was allowed to use his bank account for “basic expenses.”
LeT killed 174 people in the Mumbai attacks between November 26-29, 2008. LeT is on the UNSC Resolution 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions List and was designated as an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) by the United States in 2001 and there is $10 million bounty on his head by the U.S. The Pakistani military has long acquiesced to terrorist groups in the country – both the Afghan Taliban and its Haqqani branch in Pakistan — by providing military and intelligence aid to them.
The Pakistani military sees itself as the national guardian of Islam and Khan has made many references to religion, which the military finds appealing and which is why some see him as a tool of the Pakistani military.
The other four terrorists which Pakistan has appealed for monetary relief on behalf of are Zafar Iqbal, who is a senior leader and co-founder of LeT; Haji Muhammad Ashraf who is the chief of finance for LeT; Muhammad Yahya Mujahid (also known as Yahya Aziz), the media head for LeT since 2001; and Abdul Salam Bhutvi (alternate spelling: Bhuttavi), a founding member of LeT and deputy to LeT emir Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Bhuttavi is also responsible for LeT/JuD’s madrassah, or religious schools, network.
Pakistan arrested all four of these men in October. Saeed was already in prison facing trial for terrorism financing.
In June 2018, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force placed Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries that are not doing enough to stop terrorist financing and money laundering.
LeT militants have defected to groups like the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). Southeast Asia and Afghanistan have more recently become breeding grounds for the radical group and its supporters. On Easter Sunday last year, ISIS-affiliated suicide bombers murdered over 250 people in Sri Lankan hotels and churches. These militants have even made their way into India.
Exiled Pakistani journalist Siddiqui has been living in Paris for two years as a political refugee exiled from Pakistan. He used to report for French and international media like the Guardian, the New York Times, France24, Al Jazeera, Christian Science Monitor, The Telegraph, and Arte out of Islamabad. Siddiqui’s story is one that familiar to many exiled journalists who have been forced to leave their home countries over fear for their lives. He said he was told, “The military doesn’t like you talking, and this is an election year, and we can’t do anything to protect you unless you want to go quiet.” Siddiqui said, “I didn’t want to go quiet. I wanted to keep speaking about Pakistan and especially the military.” So, he left Pakistan.
“I left because I was advised to get out of the country at that time and by friends and family, just before was attacked on January 10, 2018, by armed men who I believe to be from the Pakistan military.” He said, “They kidnapped me and there was a possible assassination plot. But I managed to escape.
“I have some diplomatic sources that told me these documents were submitted by the Pakistani government to the United Nations in September of last year 2019 for Hafiz Saeed the main mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks. But I found out there were actually four other people and they are on the UNSC sanctioned list and the Pakistani government was saying the UNSC should let these terrorists use their bank accounts so they can to spend money on their families for daily expenditures.”
The amount being sought is small, but according to Siddiqui, even that is too much for these terrorists. “They used the case of the starving wives and children of these terrorists to convince the UNSC members to finance them,’ Siddiqui said. “But that’s giving access to militants and terrorists for funding. They are historically and traditionally terrorists. “But at the end of the day, the terrorist families should find ways to support themselves separate from the terrorists. Pakistan has been under pressure to take action against them, but at the same time, it does not want to take real action. It wants to do cosmetic stuff and fool the world and go underhanded.”
Siddiqui fears these terrorist financing grants may actually be approved by the UN. “The Pakistanis are very good at playing this double game, especially with the Western world. They say one thing and do another thing. Imran Khan is a military puppet,” he said. He said the Pakistani military’s way of putting up the façade of a being democracy is by putting up this westernized, liberal Imran khan. However, Siddiqui added, “but he’s more dangerous than this mullah-looking religious leader. Because while he doesn’t look like that, his mindset is very much like theirs. He’s called Taliban Khan in the country.”