Hafiz Saeed’s sentence
The decision is finally in. Hafiz Saeed will be going to jail. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has sentenced the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) head to five and a half years in prison on each of two charges relating to terror-financing. He was also fined the less remarkable amounts of Rs15,000 in each case. One of his close aides also received the same sentences on the same charges. However, the time already served under house arrest will also be counted towards that prison term under Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Even then, the conviction provides heartening proof of Pakistan’s commitment to prosecuting terrorists and their facilitators.
Although some critics, especially those across the border in India, will try to accuse Pakistan of not going after Saeed on more serious charges, the fact remains that the cases that were built against Saeed were strong. Meanwhile, cases involving more serious charges have proven harder to make, in no small part due to India’s refusal to cooperate with Pakistan in building them.
The two charges against Saeed were under section 11-F(2) and 11-N of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which relate to membership of a proscribed organisation and fundraising and money-laundering for the purpose of terrorism, respectively. The ruling is also proof that JuD was financing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist activities using funds collected through various charity fronts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. Most of these charities were banned in April last year after the Counter-Terrorism Department’s investigations established their links with Saeed and his comrades.
The investigations were at least partly prompted by Pakistan’s grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failure to combat terror financing. Soon after the FATF decision, Pakistan banned JuD and its Falah-e-Insanyat Foundation charity to partially address the international body’s concerns. Around 200 seminaries and hundreds of other assets associated with JuD and its linked groups were also seized. It was the first time the startling size of the terrorist outfit became widely known. We can only hope that others are never allowed to grow this way.
Several child abuse cases in recent years have rocked the country to its core. Amid the outpouring of emotions, some have angrily called for bringing back the death penalty for the culprits. Others have gone a step further demanding public hanging for the culprits to serve as some form of deterrent against these heinous acts. Child sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality of our society and we have struggled to address it adequately at multiple levels. Moved mainly by a recent case of abuse, parliament has responded swiftly, passing the Zainab Alert Bill that is meant to spread alerts in the hopes of saving our children. There have been cries from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) as well to publicly hang culprits after a case in Nowshera last month where a young child was raped and brutally murdered. Following recommendations from the province’s assembly, the National Assembly passed a resolution calling for public hanging.
However, a report by the police in K-P has offered new light on where some of the failings of the system may lie. The report, about the number of child abuse cases being reported, the suspects arrested in them and their prosecution status, is extremely shocking. Prepared by the police, the report shows that there is a whopping acquittal rate of over 80%. And this has been a general theme for the past five years at least. The officer, who has presented the report before his superiors, states that some of the reasons for a shockingly-low conviction rates are poor investigation and evidence-collection techniques. To put it simply, cops have a hard time proving a crime committed by a particular suspect. The failings of our prosecution system are well documented. It is not entirely uncommon to find wrongful convictions, even in death penalty cases. We may clamour for public hanging, but first, we must guarantee that we are convicting the true culprits by proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.