Pakistani authorities have informed Western interlocutors that Sajid Mir, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative involved in directing the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was arrested and given an eight-year prison term this year, people familiar with the matter said on Friday -- a change from the Pakistani establishment's earlier claim that Sajid Mir alias Sajid Majid "died" some time ago.
The new information on Mir emerged only after key Western countries mounted considerable pressure on Islamabad to present proof of his death.
The matter was taken up by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during its assessment of Pakistan's actions to crack down on terror financing, especially the investigation and prosecution of key leaders of LeT, the people cited above said.
Pakistan has for long claimed that Mir is dead -- a standard response every time Western officials raised his case, the people said.
Sajid Mir was indicted in a US district court in Chicago in April 2011 and charged with conspiracy against the property of a foreign government, providing material support to terrorists, killing an American citizen outside the US and aiding and abetting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. (Sourced)
The pressure on Pakistan to provide proof of Mir's death, including a forensic audit and details of time and place of death, began building up again around the end of last year, people familiar with developments in both Islamabad and Western capitals said.
When FATF sought information about investigations Pakistani authorities conducted in the case before they discovered Mir was dead and details they gathered to actually confirm his death, Islamabad was unable to come up with anything substantial. Several Western countries doubted the claim and the issue became a sticking point in the assessment of Pakistan's case by FATF, the people said.
Just before the latest FATF plenary meeting held in Berlin during June 14-17, Pakistani authorities informed Western interlocutors that Mir was arrested in April and given an eight-year prison term after a trial, the people said.
There was no immediate word from Indian officials on the matter. Details on the reported court proceedings against Mir, including whether he was tried by a civilian or military court, and where he is serving the sentence could not immediately be ascertained.
"The reported arrest and sentencing of Mir doesn't serve the ultimate goal of getting justice for the victims of the Mumbai attacks. And the flip-flop over his death and being alive is just like the usual ploys we have seen the Pakistani establishment use in the past," one person said.
FATF didn't immediately remove Pakistan from its "grey list" at the plenary meeting but said it will conduct an onsite visit to ascertain if steps taken by Islamabad to curb terror financing and money laundering are "sustainable and irreversible". The multilateral watchdog also said Pakistan had "largely addressed" all 34 action items from two action plans given to the country to curb financing of terror groups and money laundering.
It is now widely expected that Pakistan will exit the "grey list" or list of countries under enhanced monitoring, in which it was placed in June 2018, following the onsite visit. An FATF team is expected to visit Pakistan sometime before the watchdog's next plenary meeting in October.
The people cited above said Pakistan did not "bilaterally" inform India about the action reportedly taken against Mir and that the information was conveyed via multilateral platforms.
The action against Mir comes after years of dillydallying by Pakistan, which feigned complete ignorance of his existence despite a French court convicting him in absentia.
A bounty of $5 million was offered under the Rewards for Justice Program of the US state department for information on Mir, who allegedly served as the chief planner of the Mumbai attacks, directed preparations and reconnaissance, and was one of the Pakistan-based controllers during the assault on India's financial hub that killed 166 people.
One of FBI's most wanted terrorists, Mir is also accused of conspiring to commit a terrorist attack against a newspaper and its employees in Denmark during 2008-09. Mir was indicted in a US district court in Chicago in April 2011 and charged with conspiracy against the property of a foreign government, providing material support to terrorists, killing an American citizen outside the US and aiding and abetting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
US, British and French anti-terrorism officials have also said the Lahore-born Mir also served in the Pakistani military. Mir then went on to join LeT's international operations wing and allegedly developed ties with al-Qaeda.