A panel working to finalise recommendations to throttle terrorism financing has picked out flaws in the strategy of security agencies, cautioning that they ought to focus both on nabbing financiers and proactively using the Anti-Money Laundering Act to plug funding sources.
Headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the sub-committee on Tuesday pointed out that narcotics traffic and donations are two of the main sources of funding terror in the country.
The sub-committee on anti-terror financing is among 15 such panels constituted by the prime minister to recommend ways and means to block finances for terrorists and their outlawed outfits.
The meeting specially discussed the aspect of terrorist funding under the garb of charities, according to a handout issued by the finance ministry.
The panel suggested fresh registration and foolproof monitoring of all such organisations, adding that the absence of proper legislation to regulate and monitor non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the country added to the problems faced by security agencies and investigators.
The meeting expressed deep concern over narco-trafficking which it sees as a strong source of terror funding. There was also emphasis laid on coordination with international agencies to discourage terror financing.
It was the consensus view that under the prevalent legal system, investigators, police, Federal Investigation Agency rarely invoked specific provisions and clauses relating to funding of terrorism as contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Anti-Money Laundering law, stated the official note.
According to the panel’s findings, “The focus of security agencies is on nabbing the terrorist instead of looking for the sponsor which is the root cause of the problem.”
The meeting also observed that in fact the law enforcing personnel lacked proper training and knowledge to track and investigate terrorist financing channels. There was also no system in place to maintain consolidated data on prosecutions carried out by the law enforcement agencies which could be shared by these agencies to help their investigation, found the panel.
The finance minister remarked that in the current scenario the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) should assume the leading role in gathering and consolidation of data for use by law enforcement agencies, adding that Nacta should be pro-active in countering terrorism and clearly state the help it requires in undertaking its official obligations.
Ishaq Dar has been facing criticism for not providing adequate financial resources to activate Nacta.
He also asked the participants to peruse international best practices and laws while finalising their proposal on combating financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations.
“There is a need to synchronise federal and provincial laws and legislate Mutual Legal Assistance Act to seek better coordination with other countries to curb the source of terrorism financing,” said Ahmer Bilal Soofi, former interim law minister and an expert in international law.
The recommendations will be presented to the prime minister along with proposals of other sub-committees for consideration.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2014.