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Pakistan plans takeover of charities run by Hafiz Saeed

Pakistan’s government plans to seize control of charities and financial assets linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who Washington has designated a terrorist, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.

Pakistan’s civilian government detailed its plans in a secret order to various provincial and federal government departments on December 19, three officials who attended one of several high-level meeting discussing the crackdown told Reuters.

Marked “secret”, a December 19 document from the finance ministry directed law enforcement and governments in Pakistan’s five provinces to submit an action plan by Dec. 28 for a “takeover” of Saeed’s two charities, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

The United States has labelled JuD and FIF “terrorist fronts” for Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure” or LeT), a group Saeed founded in 1987 and which Washington and India blame for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks and a Pakistani court saw insufficient evidence to convict him. The LeT could not be reached for comment.

The Dec. 19th document, which refers to “Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issues”, names only Saeed’s two charities and “actions to be taken” against them.

The FATF, which is an international body that combats money laundering and terrorist financing, has warned Pakistan it faces inclusion on a watch list for failing to crack down on financing terrorism.

Asked about a crackdown on JuD and FIF, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who co-chaired one of the meetings on the plan, responded only generally, saying he has ordered authorities “to choke the fundraising of all proscribed outfits in Pakistan”.

In a written reply to Reuters, he also said Pakistan wasn’t taking action under U.S. pressure. “We’re not pleasing anyone. We’re working as a responsible nation to fulfil our obligations to our people and international community.”

Spokesmen for the JuD and FIF both said they could not comment until they receive official notifications of the government’s plans. “We don’t have any intimation about any crackdown so far,” FIF spokesman Salman Shahid told Reuters. “No one has asked us about our work or assets.”

Saeed could not be reached for comment. He has frequently denied having ties to militants and says the charitable organisations he founded and controls have no terrorism ties. He says he promotes an Islamic-oriented government through doing good works.

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