FATF sword hangs over Pakistan


Farooq Ganderbali
Defying the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) resolutions for years, the President of Pakistan finally promulgated an ordinance just eight days before the beginning of the week-long session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on February 18-23 in Paris. The ordinance, promulgated in a hush-hush manner on February 10, was not made public for two days and when made public, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) refused to comment on it. It looked as if the government wanted to delay and dilute the angry reaction of its UNSC-proscribed friends at home while not daring to defy the UNSC anymore. Now that the United States (US) has a President in Donald Trump who will not take lies and deceit from America’s most allied ally.

President Mamnoon Hussain’s ordinance amended Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 to include UNSC–proscribed terrorist organisations and individuals in Pakistan’s list of proscribed entities. Thus, after long procrastinations Pakistan accepted Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) as terrorist organisations already proscribed by the UNSC – like the UN-listed Al Akhtar Trust and Al Rashid Trust. In a follow-up action the Interior Ministry of Pakistan issued a notification for freezing and taking over of assets of JuD and FIF in pursuance of the ordinance. But the notification left it ambiguous whether this action has included JuD and FIF in the Interior Ministry’s banned organisations’ list. However, Punjab’s provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that on Interior Ministry’s directions Hafiz Saeed and his charities have been banned to operate in Pakistan and that the government has already started taking over all the facilities, offices, schools, seminaries and dispensaries of JuD and FIF.

The reaction to the ordinance at home reflected an obstinate character that refuses to see the realities and the word’s concern about Pakistan degenerating into a ‘Stone Age’ in the name of jihad and for passion of hatred. The Pakistani Senate warned the FATF against putting Pakistan on the watch list. But because of the fear of terrorists and their supporters in Khaki, Parliament never discussed the growth of terrorism in the country. Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, while taking part in the Senate debate, criticised India and the US as if they were to blame if Pakistan was grey-listed. Hafiz Saeed said he would challenge the government’s actions against his assets in the court. He and his supporters claim that this ordinance will deprive poor children of free education, free medical facilities and will render thousands of people jobless as if providing these facilities to the under-privileged is not the responsibilities of the state but of JuD and FIF.

But perhaps Hafiz Saeed knows this ordinance or even grey-listing of Pakistan by FATF will not make much difference to his activities and operations. He knows, thanks to official connivance, a proscribed organisation can continue its functions as usual. In 2002 Gen Pervez Musharraf banned a number of terrorist organisations including the then LeT led by Hafiz Saeed. All banned organisations gave themselves different names and continued their pre-ban activities. The LeT became JuD and Saeed put on a garb of a philanthropist to give some respectability to his terror activities. Gen Musharraf also did not mind it. His praises of the LeT, the JuD and Hafiz Saeed in recent months clearly show that the banning of terrorist organisations in 2002 was an eye-wash to befool the US which had begun to pay Pakistan for “fighting” terrorism. That Gen Musharraf was the Army Chief of Pakistan when he played this double game against his benefactor, the US, is a proof that the Army stood behind the LeT and other terror entities. For this reason the re-named terrorist organisations have not suffered at all because of the ban.

On the contrary, terrorist outfits have flourished since 2002. For example, the LeT-turned JuD has become the richest terrorist outfit in Pakistan so much so that once Saeed boasted that if Pakistan stopped taking aid from the US he would fill the gap. That raised the question: what were his sources of income? Public donations????? But other terrorist organisations collect public donations too but they are not even quarter as rich as the JuD/LeT is. The JuD has been funding terrorism in Kashmir. India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) reported in March last year that the FIF was funding terrorism in Kashmir. Later, after the killing of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016, Saeed had sent rupees 50 crore to Kashmir for subversive activities. The money was routed to Kashmir through hawala network operating in different countries including Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Now coming back to the Presidential Ordinance of February 10 this year just eight days before the beginning of six-day long meeting of the FATF countries to consider a resolution of the US, UK, Germany and France to include Pakistan among the countries that support terrorism financially. We must recall, it was about three years ago that Pakistan was out of FATF’s grey list. Between 2012 and 2015 Pakistan was FATF’s watch list. It was out of it when it pretended complying with the UNSC Resolution 1267 which demanded imposition of travel ban on JuD and some other militant organisations and sealing of JuD bank accounts. But Pakistan’s prominent defence expert Ayesha Siddiqa wrote in Friday Times in February last year how the FATF was tricked. She wrote the ban on travelling and the sealing of bank accounts were flouted “because the LeT network continued to operate under other names or conducted its business as usual’’. She wrote Saeed cannot operate the JuD bank accounts but which channels does he or his banned organisation use for collecting and distributing money for welfare? The State does not ask this question, thus implying its cooperation.

As the FATF again put Pakistan on the grey list and a review would take place after three months in June 2018, it appears that slowly but surely a consensus is being evolved amongst the international community including China, who was elected as the Vice Chair of FATF on February 23, on an apparent state complicity in terror financing in Pakistan. Though Pakistan has criticised the FATF decision and in some quarters there may be some sense of reprieve, but this mood would definitely be short-lived and the FATF sword over Pakistan’s head cannot vanish unless the faith in terrorists as guarantors of country’s security vanishes.