An anti-terrorism court (ATC) handed down five-and-a-half-year rigorous imprisonment (RI) each to Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and his aide Malik Zafar Iqbal in two of the cases relating to terror financing.

Imran Fazal Gill, the counsel for JuD, said that the verdict would be challenged in the Lahore High Court. He claimed that the charge of fundraising for terrorism purposes was not established before the trial court, but the conviction was given under pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international terror financing watchdog. It may be mentioned that the FATF is scheduled to meet in Paris in next few days to decide Pakistan`s grey list fate.

Hafiz Saeed and other leaders of JuD were already under detention of the Punjab government when the CTD lodged as many as 23 cases in2019 under similar charges against them in different cities of the province. The judge in his verdict said the prosecution had successfully proved its case under Sections 11-F (1) and 11-I (2) of the ATA.

The Section 11-F (1) deals with offence of membership, support and meetings relating to a proscribed organisation and states that a person is guilty of this offence if he belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation. The Section 11-I deals with the offence of using and possessing money or property and intending to use, or has reasonable cause to suspect that it may be used, for the purposes of terrorism.

`Careful scanning of Section 11-F (1) of ATA 1997 reflects that a person is guilty of an offence if he belongs to a proscribed organisation and it is not mentioned in the said section that the said membership is post-proscription or pre-proscription and in this case ... it is established by the prosecution that accused Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Malik Zafar Iqbal belong to proscribed organisation[s J Jamaatud Dawa and Tanzeem Markaz Dawatul Irshad.

The verdict said the sentences passed in both cases would run concurrently and the convict would also have the benefit of Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which says that length of any sentence of imprisonment imposed upon an accused shall be treated as reduced by any period during which he/she was detained in custody for such offence.

Previously, the court had allowed an application by the JuD leaders and decided to announce the verdict in all pending cases simultaneously by the end of this week.

However, special prosecutor Abdul Rauf Wattoo had asked the court, in writing, to recall its decision and announce verdicts in cases where arguments had already been closed.