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Pakistan still on radar of terror financing watchdog

ISLAMABAD: Despite taking a few significant steps against terror financing, Pakistan remains on the radar of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog tracking terror financing, over concerns that it is not fully complying with curbs against entities listed with the United Nations.

Pakistani officials, however, insist that they have done a lot and would continue to do whatever was required for the implementation of sanctions against entities designated under the UNSCR 1267.

At a meeting held last week in Valencia, Spain, the FATF referred Pakistan to its regional affiliate, Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), for further analysis and a follow-up report.

FATF’s International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG), which analyses high-risk jurisdictions, has requested the APG to provide the revised follow-up report on Pakistan after discussing it at its (APG’s) annual meeting scheduled for July.

The ICRG further decided to ask Pakistan for its compliance report on the implementation of UNSCR 1267 in case the APG decided against sending a revised report. It should be recalled that on previous occasions, the APG had sent its un-adopted report to the ICRG. The ICRG would once again take up Pakistan’s case at its meeting in October.

Officials have downplayed the FATF referral as a procedural matter and expect that Pakistan would be cleared of concerns over the implementation of UN sanctions.

The Pakistan government has taken a number of measures to squelch terror financing, including freezing over 100 bank accounts of UN-listed entities and individuals. However, some countries remain concerned about inadequate action against Hafiz Saeed and the entities linked to him – Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-i-Insaaniat – both of which are on interior ministry’s watch list. There have also been concerns about fund-raising and seminaries run by the Jaish-e-Muhammad.

The government’s actions against terror financing, it is believed, have been constrained by political and certain other considerations. However, international pressure has been unrelenting, forcing the government to take difficult decisions.

Hafiz Saeed was placed under house arrest on Jan 30, ahead of the FATF meeting in February. The ICRG even then referred Pakistan to the APG, which reported that: “there continue to be certain UNSCR 1267 designated entities that receive and disperse funds without controls being applied by the competent authorities.”

A fortnight before last week’s FATF meeting, the government quietly banned the Tehreek-i-Azad-i-Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK), the latest of many organisations set up by Hafiz Saeed that came into the limelight on Kashmir Day in February, when it organised pro-Kashmir freedom rallies and displayed banners and streamers across the country.

It was, once again, deemed insufficient to clear the ICRG’s doubts and Pakistan’s case was sent back to the APG.

India is one country that has been active in maintaining pressure on Pakistan on this count. However, there are certain Muslim countries, which too, have been unhelpful for Pakistan’s cause.

A source revealed that at the last APG meeting, Indonesia allowed submission of the un-adopted report on Pakistan to the FATF by opting to abstain. This was taken as a signal of no-objection to the move.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017

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