Banned organisation seeks unfreezing of accounts

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Al-Rashid Trust (ART), a Pakistani non-governmental organisation known to have provided support to jihadist activities in the region, has approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking the unfreezing of their accounts and assets, which have been seized since 2001, when it was declared a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and the United States (US).

ART was designated a terrorist entity by the US Department of Treasury in September 2001. According to the US government, the head of ART was “a key supporter of Taliban operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and had coordinated Taliban facilitation activities”. He allegedly received “numerous senior Taliban visitors at his madressah in Karachi” and was said to have disbursed funds directly to Taliban leaders.

The UN Security Council also added ART to its sanctions list in October 2001 for “being associated with Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the Taliban for ‘participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of’ Al Qaeda.”

Al-Rashid Trust’s lawyers claim UNSC resolution not sufficient grounds to seize assets
Though Pakistan did not declare ART a banned outfit, it included the organisation in a government watch list to avoid international sanctions.

The trust is still said to be under “observation”, while a lawyer dealing with the matter said that the trust had been dissolved and the petitioner merely wanted to release the frozen funds.

However, ART challenged the freezing of its accounts before the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Aug 4, 2003. According to the stance the federal government adopted, ART’s accounts were frozen in compliance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Although the court set aside the freezing order, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued another notification for the seizure of ART accounts the next day.

ART trustee Mohammad Suleman then challenged the ministry’s notification before the Supreme Court. In January this year, the apex court disposed of the petition with the observation that the petitioner may challenge the notification before a high court.

Initially, according to advocate Arafat Ahmed, Habib Bank (HBL) froze ART’s accounts after receiving copies of the resolutions. SHC set aside the act of freezing as the bank had done so without the prior approval of the federal government.

To remove the legal hitch, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a notification ordering their accounts frozen the very next day.

Subsequently, ART filed a petition before the IHC on Tuesday, where Justice Aamir Farooq, after a preliminary hearing, issued notices to the respondents: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Habib Bank Limited and the State Bank of Pakistan, and has sought their replies by May 19.

The petitioner, through counsel Arafat Ahmed and Kashifa Niaz, told the court that the trust was not afforded any opportunity to defend itself, either by the bank or the federal government, which was against the rules of natural justice.

The petition maintained that the petitioner formed the trust in a lawful manner to assist the poor and a UN resolution was not sufficient grounds to ask the petitioner to pack up and freeze his accounts.

“Any resolution passed by the UN Security Council, particularly the one adversely affecting the fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan was not essentially required to be given effect, and if at all the same was to be implemented, the federal government could not have bulldozed the constitutional guarantees.”

The petition pointed out that “the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against United States drone campaign in foreign territories in December 2013 and Pakistan has been a vocal opponent of the strikes conducted with the help of unmanned aircraft… The said resolution could not prevent the US from its strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan.”

According to Pakistan Bar Council member Advocate Sohaib Shaheen, any individual or organisation that the UNSC recommended to keep under watch may approach the court to avail a remedy, as guaranteed by Article 10-A of the Constitution.

If the UNSC or Pakistani government approved a certain adverse action against any person or group, it has the right to take this matter for judicial scrutiny, he said.

Apart from Pakistan, ART has a network in Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Founded by Mufti Mohammad Rashid in 1996 soon after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the organisation started charity and welfare projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1996.

It supposedly provided food, financial and legal support to several groups and was also said to be involved in the establishment of a network of madressahs in Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attacks on the United States, ART’s accounts were frozen.

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