Jamaat-ud-Dawa to take legal route to overturn ban

In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Hafiz Saeed, chief of Pakistani religious group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, addresses a rally in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2019

Jamaat-ud-Dawa to take legal route to overturn ban

  • Assets of Hafiz Saeed-linked outfits impounded
  • “We are a peaceful welfare organization,” JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said

LAHORE: A spokesman for the charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which has been linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group behind the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, said it would go to court on Wednesday after a government crackdown closed several of its missions. 

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) added the JuD and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) to its list of banned organizations. 

Both groups are linked to LeT founder Hafiz Saeed — one of South Asia’s most wanted men, with a $10 million bounty on his head. Saeed has always maintained the JuD and FIF are just charities, and not fronts for militant activity. 

“We are a peaceful welfare organization,” JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid said. “Despite all the atrocities, we will stay peaceful and get justice from the courts.” He added the government had closed JuD offices, pharmacies, health units and schools, impounded ambulances and arrested dozens of activists across the country. “It is an injustice to a peaceful organization. Police are even harassing women during raids at our homes.”

At Al-Qadsia, the JuD’s Lahore headquarters, which Arab News visited on Wednesday, little seemed to have changed other than a few policemen standing outside the complex.

But a spokesman for the local government in Punjab, Shahbaz Gill, confirmed that police and other security agencies had launched crackdowns against groups including the JuD across the country. In Rawalpindi, a hospital, religious school and two JuD pharmacies were sealed, and several religious seminaries linked to the group were closed in Chakwal.

An intelligence official said police had also arrested dozens of members of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the sectarian militant group Sipah-i-Sahaba in the cities of Jhang, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur in the south of Punjab. 

Last month, JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed at least 40 police and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. 

On Tuesday, Pakistan said it had detained two close relatives of JeM chief Masood Azhar. A day earlier, Islamabad announced it had taken fresh steps to seize and freeze the assets of people wanted by the UN and others.  

Last year, the global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), put Pakistan on a watch list of nations with inadequate controls to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering, handicapping chances of attracting Western investment.

Last week, New Delhi and Islamabad came to blows after the former said it attacked a JeM training camp in northern Pakistan, who retaliated by downing an Indian jet that entered its airspace last Wednesday, capturing its pilot.

“Pakistan is taking action against militant groups, under pressure from the FATF and the UN,” political analyst Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi said. “The crackdown looks serious this time but let’s see how long the government sustains it.”

Islamabad has admitted to launching crackdowns against militant groups but denied it was due to international pressure.

Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 May 2019

Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

  • Govt claims miraculous result, but unclear if can form majority
  • Morrison govt polls strongly in Queensland state

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the center-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a jubilant Sydney crowd.
He compared his Liberal Party’s victory for a third three-year term to the births of his daughters, Abbey, 11, and Lily, 9, who were conceived naturally after 14 years of in vitro fertilization had failed. His wife, Jenny Morrison, suffered endometriosis.
“I’m standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said, embraced by his wife and daughters.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had earlier conceded defeat as the coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
“I’m disappointed for people who depend upon Labor, but I’m glad that we argued what was right, not what was easy,” Shorten told his supporters.
Shorten would have become Australia’s sixth prime minister in as many years. He said he would no longer lead Labor after six years at the helm.
The tight race raised the prospect of the coalition forming a minority government. The conservatives became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister for Morrison in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the blood-letting that followed.
An unpopular single-term Labor government that was voted out in 2013 had been the only previous minority government since World War II.
Opinion polls prior to Saturday’s election had suggested that the coalition would lose and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
Morrison had focused his campaigning on polling that showed while Labor was more popular than the government, the prime minister was more popular than Shorten.
There was so much public confidence of a Labor victory that Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the election. Sportsbet said 70% of wagers had been placed on Labor at odds of $1.16.
Another betting agency, Ladbrokes, said it had accepted a record AU$1 million wager on Labor.
Shorten, who campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Morrison is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were elected in 2013.
Tony Abbott, who became the first of those three prime ministers in the 2013 election, conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
Polling suggests climate change was a major issue in that seat for voters, who instead elected an independent candidate, Zali Steggall. As prime minister in 2014, Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government. Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.
A maverick senator who blamed the slaughter of 51 worshippers in two New Zealand mosques on the country’s immigration policies also lost his bid for election.
Fraser Anning was the target of widespread condemnation for railing against Muslim immigration within hours of the mass shootings in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in March. He faced more criticism later for physically striking a teenage protester who cracked a raw egg on his head and was censured by the Senate.
Senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen said his party may have suffered from what he conceded was an unusual strategy of pushing a detailed policy agenda through the election campaign.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten campaigned hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a former tourism marketer, promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.
Both major parties promised that whoever won the election would remain prime minister until he next faces the voters’ judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.
During Labor’s last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.