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Pakistan seizes assets of charity linked to US-wanted cleric
February 14, 2018
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ISLAMABAD: Amid increasing pressure from the international community, Pakistan on Wednesday began seizing assets and funds belonging to charities linked to cleric Hafiz Saeed wanted by the US, officials said.
 
It was the first step against Saeed since he was freed by Pakistani authorities in November on a court order. He is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which was blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. His release drew criticism from both Washington and neighbouring India at the time.
 
Pakistan's Interior Ministry issued a notification on Wednesday requiring authorities to immediately seize the assets of Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) organisation and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).
 
Saeed denies involvement in the Mumbai attacks and claims his charities are only under a UN watch list.
The operations in Pakistan of Saeed's extensive network — which includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services - has been a particular concern of the United States.
 
Punjab province's law minister, Rana Sanaullah, said the central Ministry of Interior had issued a notification against the two charities, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), this week.
 
"We have received the interior ministry directions, and according to that, Hafiz Saeed and his charities, like JuD and FIF, have been banned to operate in Pakistan," Sanaullah told Reuters.
 
The move came a day after Pakistan's cabinet approved new rules in an effort to tighten the noose around outlawed extremist and militant organisations and seize their financial assets. The step was taken after Pakistan issued an ordinance, amending a decades-old anti-terrorism law, to allow authorities to act against outlawed charities, groups or individuals listed by the UN Security Council.
 
Two government officials said they seized health facilities, schools and ambulances of two Saeed charities and renamed them instead of shutting them down. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
 
Yahya Mujahid, spokesman for Saeed and his charity, angrily reacted to the seizing of assets and funds by the government, claiming the move was aimed at appeasing the United States.
 
In a statement, he said the government move could badly affect their charities' welfare work and deprive many people of work. He vowed to fight the government in court and insisted Saeed had been kept under house arrest without any justification in the past.
 
He asked supporters to exercise restraint in reaction to the decision after confirming the government was seizing their hospitals, schools, ambulances and others assets across the country.
 
In the city of Rawalpindi, in Punjab province, district officers had begun taking over the charities' offices, a city official said.
 
"We've taken over all the JuD and FIF assets. We've completed the takeover," Rawalpindi commissioner Nadeem Aslam told Reuters.

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Aslam said he did not have an exact number of offices and seminaries involved in the asset seizure but data was being compiled in all four districts of Rawalpindi division and he expected full details of the assets.
 
A spokesmen for JuD declined to make an immediate comment but said a statement would be issued. Officials at FIF could not be reached for comment, nor could Hafiz Saeed himself, who rarely speaks to the media.
 
Pakistan has banned the LeT but its charity wings, the JUD and FIF have been operating.
 
The United States has offered $10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who heads JuD, which Washington says is a front for the LeT.

 
Agencies

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