Pakistani PM says ‘committed’ to seizing Islamist charities

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reacts during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan Jan. 22, 2018. (Reuters/Caren Firouz)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Pakistani PM says ‘committed’ to seizing Islamist charities

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday said his government will push ahead with plans to seize control of charities run by an Islamist designated a terrorist by Washington, and warned the United States not to weaken Pakistan.
Abbasi brushed off US President Donald Trump’s recent tweet accusing Pakistan of “lies and deception” in its commitment to fighting terrorism, as he raised the prospect of charging the United States to use Pakistan’s airspace to resupply NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Under pressure from the United States and international institutions to crack down on terrorist financing, Pakistan last month drew up secret plans for a “takeover” of charities linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who Washington blames for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
The United States has labelled the charities Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) as “terrorist fronts” for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), or “Army of the Pure,” a group Saeed founded in 1987 and which Washington and India accuse of carrying out the Mumbai attacks.
Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks and says the charitable organizations he founded and controls have no ties with militants.
But both he and the organizations have been sanctioned by the United Nations and his freedom in Pakistan, where he holds public rallies, has been a thorn in Islamabad’s relations with India and the United States.
“Yes, the government will take over the charities which are sanctioned and not allowed to operate,” Abbasi, 59, told Reuters in an interview at the prime minister’s chamber in Pakistan’s Parliament in capital Islamabad.
Answering specific questions about the proposed takeover of JuD and FIF, Abbasi said the civilian government had the backing of the powerful military, which effectively controls Pakistan’s security and foreign policy.
“Everybody is on board, everybody is on the same page, everybody is committed to implementation of UN sanctions,” he said.
He declined to set a deadline.
JuD and FIF did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. The organizations have previously said they would take legal action if the government tried to take them over. Saeed could not be reached for comment.
Selective action
There are concerns in Pakistan that the country may face financial sanctions over accusations of selective action against Islamist militant groups and financing.
Pakistan is a base for myriad Islamist movements, and critics accuse Islamabad of only targeting militants who attack the state while leaving unscathed those who target neighboring Afghanistan and arch-foe India. Pakistan denies those allegations.
Abbasi said Pakistan had made progress in curbing terrorist financing after meetings with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that warned Islamabad could be put on a watchlist for not doing enough to stop the practice.
“We’ve had several meetings on that, and from what I’ve seen a large part of those actions have been taken,” Abbasi said.
A UN Security Council team is due to visit Pakistan this month to review progress against UN-designated “terrorist” groups, which includes LeT and others such as the Afghan Taliban-allied Haqqani network.
Former petroleum minister Abbasi said any sanctions against Pakistan would be counter-productive to the country’s own battle against Islamist militants, which he called “the largest war on terror in the world.”
“Any constraints put on Pakistan, actually only serve to degrade our capability to fight the war against terror,” he said.
Trump meeting
Relations between the United States and its uneasy ally have frayed since Jan. 1, when Trump lashed out against what he called Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” over its alleged support of Afghan Taliban militants battling US troops in Afghanistan. Washington has since suspended aid totalling about $2 billion.
Abbasi said Trump’s tweet was “unacceptable” in its tone and that Pakistan should not be “scapegoated” for US failures in Afghanistan.
“That is something ... we cannot accept because nobody’s suffered more than Pakistan,” Abbasi said, adding that tens of thousands of Pakistani have died from militancy that has inflicted damage worth $120 billion to the economy.
US officials last year warned of tougher measures against Pakistan, including potentially withdrawing its “non-Nato ally” status or even designating it a state sponsor of terrorism.
Abbasi said much of the suspended aid was from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a US Defense Department program to reimburse allies for the costs of supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.
He said the US needed to respect Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against Islamist militancy and raised the prospect of charging Washington for air transport flights that have been resupplying US-led troops and Afghan forces in landlocked Afghanistan.
“If somebody wants to start quantifying expenses and aid, I think let’s put this on the table also. Let’s discuss that,” Abbasi said, though he added that such talk was “hypothetical.”
Abbasi dismissed media reports that Islamabad has ended intelligence sharing with the US military as false.
And he also spoke fondly about a brief discussion he had with Trump in September at a reception at the UN General Assembly in New York.
“I found him to be fairly warm,” he said. “Somebody that you would like to engage with and talk to.”


Religious hate crime surge brings call for action from Muslim Council of Britain

Updated 25 min 24 sec ago
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Religious hate crime surge brings call for action from Muslim Council of Britain

  • Number of recorded hate crimes in England and Wales has more than doubled in the past five years, official data shows, with a substantial rise in offenses directed at Muslims
  • Findings come after a separate report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that 70% of Muslims surveyed nationally say they have experienced religion-based prejudice

LONDON: The number of recorded hate crimes in England and Wales has more than doubled in the past five years, official data shows, with a substantial rise in offenses directed at Muslims.

Religiously-motivated hate crime has risen by 40% in just the past two years with more than half (52%) being directed at Muslims in the community, according to the Home Office.

The findings come after a separate report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that 70% of Muslims surveyed nationally say they have experienced religion-based prejudice in their daily lives.

The Home Office said the increase in hate crime was largely driven by improvements in the way police record hate crime. But it also noted “spikes following the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017.”

The Labour Party MP David Lammy, who is part of the pro-Europe Best for Britain campaign, blamed the rise in hate crime on the rhetoric of Brexiters. “The extent to which hate crimes have risen in recent years is shameful. It comes from the very top. Divisive, xenophobic rhetoric from politicians and leaders trickles down into abuse and violence on our streets,” he said.

“It is no surprise that Islamophobic attacks on Muslim women who wear veils rose in the days following Boris Johnson’s ‘letterbox’ insult. Similarly, it is no coincidence that the type of anti-immigrant language used by some mainstream politicians has corresponded with spikes in hate crimes,” added Mr. Lammy.

Announcing the review, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Hate crime goes directly against the longstanding British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect, and I am committed to stamping this sickening behavior out. Our refreshed action plan sets out how we will tackle the root causes of prejudice and racism, support hate crime victims and ensure offenders face the full force of the law.”

The Muslim Council of Britain repeated calls for meaningful and proactive Government action as new figures reveal a rise in Islamophobic hate crime.

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “For years, Muslim communities have called for meaningful Government action against the rise in Islamophobia, yet this has been met by a tepid response at best.”

Mr Khan continued: “No longer can the Government sit back and watch as the far-right rises, Islamophobia is mainstreamed and vulnerable Muslim communities are attacked. There has been little action against bullying of Muslim children, minimal funding for security for Muslim institutions (and only during specific periods) and no support to Muslim communities to encourage reporting of hate crime. And the list of inaction continues.”

Mr Khan said: “We welcome the Ministerial Roundtables on antisemitism and Islamophobia to be chaired in late 2018 to listen and respond to concerns from within communities, but unlike in the past two years, we hope that warm words will be followed by strong action.”