India has welcomed the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) decision to place Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ for not doing enough to counter terror financing, even as China has bestowed praise on its close ally for efforts in combating terrorism.
The decision was taken by the FATF Plenary that met in Paris between June 24 and 29 after reviewing the monitoring report of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG). Pakistan’s caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar attended the meeting with a delegation.
FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF had earlier put Pakistan on its grey list between 2012 and 2015.
The global financial watchdog grey listed Pakistan despite Islamabad reportedly showing progress in a majority of areas identified as threats and also placing before the FATF a 26-point action plan that it will take forward over the next 15 months.
“India welcomes the decision of FATF to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (Grey list) for ICRG monitoring,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. The ministry also slammed Pakistan over the presence of terrorists like 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Pakistan-based terror groups.
“We hope that the FATF Action plan shall be complied within a time-bound manner and credible measures would be taken by Pakistan to address global concerns related to terrorism emanating from any territory under its control,” the ministry said.
Pakistan is the ninth country to be placed on the Paris-based FATF’s ‘grey list’. The other eight being Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen, a PTI report said.
The placement of Pakistan on the grey list may hurt Pakistan’s economy as well as its international standing.
China declined to comment on Pakistan being placed on the grey list for failing to curb anti-terror financing by FATF, but heaped praise on its close ally, saying the world should recognise “enormous efforts and sacrifices” made by Islamabad to combat terrorism, PTI reported.
“We will not make comment on the decision of the task force. But we understand Pakistan has made enormous efforts for the counter-terrorism and made great sacrifices,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a media briefing in Beijing when asked about the FATF’s decision.
“The international community should view this in an objective and just way. The international community should give more support and recognition to Pakistan,” he said.
139 entries from Pakistan
The United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) consolidated list of terrorist individuals and entities with links to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State includes a record 139 entries from Pakistan.
The list, which includes a total of 257 individuals and 82 entities, includes such top terrorists as Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed.
Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s heir apparent, is among the most wanted terrorists on the list. The UNSC data shows he is still hiding somewhere “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area”.
Ramzi Mohammad bin al-Sheibah, a Yemeni national, comes second.
The list also includes Indian mob boss Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, who according to the UNSC, has held several Pakistani passports issued in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
Ibrahim, 62, is wanted in India for masterminding the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. He is accused of match-fixing and extortion too. He is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, which the list updated on March 29 points to.
LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s (JuD) Hafiz Saeed finds a mention on the list. He is wanted by Interpol, according to UNSC. Haji Mohammed Yahya Mujahid, LeT’s spokesman, and Hafiz Saeed’s deputies, Abdul Salaam and Zafar Iqbal, have also been listed. Like Saeed, they are all wanted by Interpol.
LeT and its various fronts – al-Mansoorian, Paasban-i-Kashmir, Paasban-i-Ahle Hadith, Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation – are on the sanctions list.
The US has offered a bounty of US$10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest.
Pakistan Lifts Ban
Hours before being placed on ‘grey list’ by FATF, Pakistan lifted a ban on a Sunni extremist outfit and unblocked assets of its chief.
Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority issued a notification to lift the ban on Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and unfreeze the assets of its chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, Pakistan media reported.
Ludhianvi is the chief of ASWJ, a banned sectarian extremist group, formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba. He became the group’s chief after the killing of his predecessor Ali Sher Haidri in a 2009 ambush.
In 1990s, the Sipah-e-Sahaba was actively involved in a number of high profile attacks on scholars, mosques and gatherings of the minority Shia community. The groups was banned by the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in 2002. The group reemerged under the name of ASWJ.
Pakistan on Watch
As the 37-member FATF began assessing Pakistan’s action plan that will be implemented over a period of 15 months beginning next January, the country’s delegation highlighted the steps taken by Islamabad to curb money laundering and terror financing.
Though some reports suggested Pakistan had tried to avert its inclusion in the grey list, sources said a decision in this regard had already been taken during the FATF’s plenary meeting in February. The FATF had only been waiting for Pakistan’s action plan before going ahead with the listing.
Following the decision at the February plenary meeting, Pakistan was asked to prepare an action plan to address the watchdog’s concerns. The plan was completed following negotiations between Pakistan and FATF members.
A US State Department spokesperson told Dawn: “We are pleased that Pakistan has made a high-level political commitment to work with FATF to address weaknesses in its counterterrorism financing (CFT) regime.”
Islamabad will have to deliver on the first goal under the action plan by next January and complete all 26 actions by September 2019.