The Foreign Office (FO) on Saturday rejected the “malicious” statement by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) regarding the conviction of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, leader of proscribed organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), saying it was “unfortunate” that India was linking Pakistan’s due legal process with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review.
“Pakistan categorically rejects the malicious statement by the MEA regarding conviction of a UN-designated individual by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudri said in a statement.
“India has no locus standi to comment on the independent judicial mechanisms of Pakistan. In this regard the only ‘compliance’ that interests Pakistan is abiding by its own statutes and fulfillment of its international obligations,” the statement said.
A day earlier, India had questioned the timing of action against Lakhvi who was convicted of terror financing by a Lahore anti-terrorism court on Friday.
According to India Today, the MEA said that UN proscribed entities and designated terrorists “act as proxies for Pakistan’s establishment to fulfill Islamabad’s anti-India agenda”, adding that the action to convict Lakhvi was taken by Pakistan at this time to project a “sense of compliance” ahead of the upcoming Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) meet.
Pakistan has been placed on the international financial watchdog’s ‘grey list’ – meaning it is a jurisdiction with strategic deficiencies in anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing of terrorism (CFT) mechanisms – since 2018.
The watchdog has previously reviewed Pakistan’s performance four times – the last time in Oct 2020 – without any change to the country’s greylist status –and is set to hold another review next month (Feb 2021).
In today’s statement, the FO said: “Investigations, prosecutions and subsequent convictions, through due process, are a reflection of the effectiveness of Pakistan’s legal system, which operates independent of any extraneous factors or influences.
“India’s assertions to link Pakistan’s due legal process with FATF are unfortunate. It is yet another Indian attempt to politicise FATF and use its processes against Pakistan. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to impartiality, confidentiality and technical nature of the FATF process.”
The statement added that the Indian insinuations against Pakistan were a vain attempt to conceal the former’s failure to bring to justice those blatantly involved in state terrorism and the brutal suppression against the subjugated people of occupied Kashmir and other minority communities.
“As for the hypocritical Indian assertions regarding the ‘terror infrastructure’ and ‘individual terrorists’, irrefutable evidence has already been provided by Pakistan to the international community of the active aiding, abetting, planning, promoting, financing and execution of terrorist activities by India against Pakistan, with impunity.”
“India would do well to put its own house in order and rein in its terror infrastructure that is aimed at destabilising India’s neighboring countries in order to fulfill the extremist agenda of the RSS-BJP regime.”
We also expect the UN counter-terrorism bodies to proceed on the basis of concrete evidence provided by Pakistan, urge India to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, and play their part in securing the dismantling of the Indian terrorist infrastructure, the statement said.
US ‘encouraged’ by LeT leader’s conviction
Meanwhile, the United States said it was “encouraged” by Lakhvi’s recent conviction.
“However, his crimes go far beyond financing terrorism. Pakistan should further hold him accountable for his involvement in terrorist attacks, including the Mumbai attacks,” the US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said on Twitter.
Lakhvi convicted of terror financing
On Jan 2, Lakhvi was arrested from Lahore in an intelligence-based operation. He was running a medical dispensary to collect and disburse funds for financing terrorism, a CTD spokesman had said, adding that a case of terrorism financing was registered.
On Friday, an Lahore ATC sentenced Lakhvi to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs300,000. The court also directed law enforcement agencies to arrest the co-accused in the case, Abu Anas Mohsin, due to availability of sufficient evidence against him.
The court also handed over possession of the dispensary to the state.
As leader of the banned militant group LeT, Lakhvi is blamed by the United States and India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was first arrested in 2008 but was later released on bail.
India has long called on Pakistan to bring Lakhvi to trial, but Islamabad says Delhi has not provided concrete evidence to try the LeT leader.
A UN Security Council sanctions committee says Lakhvi is LeT’s chief of operations and accuses him of being involved in militant activity in a number of other regions and countries, including Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.