Pakistan does itself no favours in the eyes of the international community when it appears tardy in moving on individuals and groups that most outside these borders have long regarded as terrorists or supporters of terrorists. The list of banned organisations alone is home to any number of names and organisations that despite being banned appear to operate, fundraise and rally with impunity. In a quiet move last Friday, President Mamnoon Hussain softly promulgated an ordinance that amended the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 in respect of proscribing individuals identified as terrorists as well as their associated entities that are listed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). On paper this could end a persistent ambiguity regarding the status of organisations such as Hafiz Saeed-linked Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and place them on the proscribed groups list.
So far so good, but looking a little closer at the reasons behind this move altruism and the fight against terror are not to the fore. It may be seen more as a deflective action in light of the meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris which starts on 18th February. The FATF is currently under pressure from the US and India to place Pakistan on the so-called ‘grey list’ as a state involved in international money laundering and the financing of terrorist activity, a charge which is long standing.
The FATF has already held a plenary session in Buenos Aires in November 2017 and asked Pakistan to supply a report on action designed to stop funds going to Hafiz Saeed and his associated organisations. It will be seeking that report in coming days. There is concern that the FATF compliance review is going to come down hard on Pakistan, and although it does not have the power to impose sanctions, it has a powerful influence on those that do. This is a real possibility and in that light the amendments to legislation begins to look like too little too late. A little more willingness and a lot less prevarication would have served Pakistan far better.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2018.