Using fictitious names, Lashkar operates bank accounts in Pakistan


by Praveen Swami

New Delhi:  The Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, the charitable arm of the internationally-proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, has been raising funds through bank accounts under pseudonyms, an investigation by The Indian Express has found. The accounts continue to be active even though the FIF is blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council, obliging all member-states to freeze their assets.  Financial sponsors of the Karachi unit of the FIF who sought information on its charity work in Syria, its Facebook page shows, were asked in individual chats to send cash to an entity called the Balochistan Water Project, which has an account in a branch of a Dubai bank in the city.

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Even though the FIF’s bank accounts were ordered shut in 2015 — and is subjected to surveillance by the intelligence services of several countries — the account’s operations evaded international anti-money laundering and countering-terror financing monitors. There is no mention of any FIF bank account in the organisation’s publications and advertisements.

The bank did not respond to an email from The Indian Express, seeking clarification on whether it was aware the account was held by the FIF, and whether it had counter-terrorism financing procedures in place to prevent such misuse.

Last week, Pakistan announced that it was detaining — not prosecuting — Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who heads the FIF, as well as well as the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s parent political group, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. It also announced that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and FIF had been placed on a watchlist.

The decision came days before Pakistan was to submit a report on its compliance with commitments made to the multinational Financial Action Task Force set up to fight terrorism, which removed the country from extraordinary surveillance in 2015 after it committed to “fully implementing UNSC Resolution 1267”.

UNSC Resolution 1267 makes it binding on member-states to freeze economic resources that could directly or indirectly benefit anyone on the list, including the Lashkar and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

In 2015, then Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam had announced that the country had frozen the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s bank accounts, as part of “action against organisations which were banned by UN’s sanctions committee”.

THE real scale of FIF activity is hard to ascertain, as the organisation does not publish audited accounts, and its publications are vague on precise expenditures. However, its global ambition is unmistakable. The organisation’s publications lay out an expansive agenda of charitable causes from Gaza and Syria to Myanmar, as well as projects spanning the length of Pakistan. These are cast as acts to defend Pakistan and the wider Islamic world.

The January 20 issue of the Lashkar-linked magazine Jarrar (“Courage”) says the FIF distributed “laakhonrupaymaaliyat”, or several hundred thousand rupees, buying 192 tons of rock and wood to pave muddy pathways in refugee camps in Syria. It also says it erected 400 tents, distributed 350 ration packs, and 1,100 mattresses to refugees, and has taken responsibility for 172 orphans.

Financial backers, incidentally, are asked to contribute to the Syrian project in US currency — $35 for a blanket and jacket, or $50 for this basic set with a muffler, gloves and footwear. There is no mention of exactly where the relief will be distributed.

The February 3 issue speaks of “winter package” units of warm blankets and clothes being distributed through 2016 to 450,000 people from Tharparkar, in Pakistan’s Sindh region, to the Neelum Valley in PoK.

In another article, Jarrar speaks of how FIF “services have broken the back of separatist movements” in Balochistan” by completing 500 water projects “worth crores”.

Elsewhere, it claims to have distributed “over 10 crore” of relief materials to protestors marching in solidarity with Kashmiris living on the Indian side of the Line of Control.

There’s at least some reason to suspect the funds end up in the Lashkar’s hands. In 2010, the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism said the Lashkar “coordinates its charitable activities through its front organizations Jamaat-ud-Dawa and, more recently, Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation.” It is used to collect donations from “Pakistani expatriate communities in the Middle East and Europe, particularly the United Kingdom.”

FIF events also appear to play a role drawing volunteers to the Lashkar’s ranks, thus helping the Jamaat-ud-Dawa avoid a direct association with terrorism — something the organisation has been keen to avoid since 26/11. The links are, however, unmistakable. FIF Karachi’s web-page, for example, links on to Jarrar, where in turn there are postings for a Difa-e-Pakistan Conference to be held in Pindwali, a village near Rajowal in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Rajowal is just a short drive from Dipalpur, near where 26/11 perpetrator Muhammad Ajmal Kasab was born and raised.

The Difa-e-Pakistan movement is a 40-member coalition of religious groups, with Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa in pole position, which seeks to seize Kashmir from India and free Pakistan of “anti-Islamic, secular, liberal hypocrites”. Last year, it also joined hands with several jihadist groups to raise funds and march for the “liberation of Kashmir”.

The FIF also organises events where the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is able to scout for talent from outside the peasant base from where much of its low-skills cadre has traditionally been drawn. The FIF website, for example, hosts advertisements for a disaster-management workshop on January 13 in Karachi’s Gulshan Iqbal, where skills including fire containment and the disposal of bodies were to be taught.

In addition, there was to be a religious affairs workshop, where lectures on the importance of jihad and service were to be delivered.

“Events like these give a veneer of respectability to the Jamaat-ud-Dawa,” said a senior Pakistani journalist who follows the group closely. “FIF is now a key gateway for new entrants to the fold.”courtesy indianexpress