Pakistan has banned two charities linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, an official said on Wednesday, in a move against the U.N.-designated “terrorist” who the United States says was behind an attack on Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people.
Authorities had begun seizing control of offices and financial assets of the charities, another official said.
The action comes days before a meeting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering watchdog, which will consider a U.S.-sponsored motion to place Pakistan on a list of countries failing to prevent terrorism financing.
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 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 that the United States and India blame for the bloody attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.
Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks. A Pakistani court freed him from house arrest last year after ruling there was insufficient evidence to convict him.
Pakistan drew up plans late last year to take over Saeed’s charities in a secret order first reported by Reuters.
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.
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.
Pakistani officials involved in the seizures of assets said failure to act against the charities could lead to Pakistan’s inclusion on the FATF watchlist.
That would make it harder for foreigners to do business in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.
Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, told Reuters the FATF would consider a motion to place Pakistan on the list but the government was “hopeful” it could make its case to avoid it.
Pakistan was on the FATF watchlist from 2012 to 2015.