ISLAMABAD: In a major move to clamp down on terrorism financing, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has directed all banks in the country to freeze accounts worth millions of rupees linked to 2,021 individuals listed on the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.

“All banks, development finance institutions and microfinance banks have been advised to take immediate action as per requirement of the law against individuals, whose names are included in the lists of fourth schedulers provided by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta),” an SBP source told Dawn, quoting from a directive issued to the banks.

Section 11-O of the ATA provides for freezing and seizing of money or other property owned directly or indirectly by a proscribed person.

A list of 2,021 individuals — mostly leaders and office-bearers of sectarian groups — has been sent to banks along with the directive, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

The move to hit representatives of several sectarian and banned groups

Some prominent names on the list are Maulvi Abdul Aziz (Lal Masjid), Mohsin Najfi (Shia leader), Maulvi Ahmed Ludhianvi (Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat), Aurang­zeb Farooqi (ASWJ), Allama Maqsood Domki (Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen), Pariyal Shah (ASWJ), Maulvi Kabir (ASWJ), Sibtain Shirazi (defunct Tehreek-i- Jafria Pakistan), Mirza Ali (defunct TJP), Ramzan Mengal (Lashkar-i-Jhangvi), Sheikh Nayyar (defunct TJP) and Shahid Bikik (Lyari Amn Committee).

Interestingly, the list also has names of some people who have died.

More than half of the listed persons (1,443) are from Pun­jab, followed by Sindh (226), Balochistan (193), Gilgit-Baltistan (106), Islamabad (27) and Azad Kashmir (26).

No one from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been included in the list.

The list sent to the banks does not include the names of all ‘fourth schedulers’. Senior counterterrorism officials said the complete list may have between 6,500 and 8,000 names.

It is not clear what criterion was used to include names in the list forwarded to the banks. Despite being a public document, the fourth schedule in its entirety has never been published by the government.

The federal government lists someone as a proscribed person in the fourth schedule if he is suspected of involvement in terrorism, or is an activist, office-bearer, or an associate of an organisation kept under observation under Section 11D or proscribed under Section 11B; and is part of an organisation or group suspected to be involved in terrorism or sectarianism.

It is believed to be the first time that freezing of such a large number of accounts on suspicion of link to terrorism has been ordered. The financial aspect of terrorism has so far received little attention. The latest move follows criticism that not enough is being done to squelch terrorism financing.

Nacta’s former coordinator Tariq Pervez described the SBP decision as a “long-awaited step in the right direction”.

He said it must be followed up by other actions required under the law, including cancellation/denial of passports and arms licences and travel ban for the listed persons.

Security analyst and director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies Amir Rana was sceptical about whether the move would substantially dent the financial sources of banned organisations.

Mr Rana’s concern is that the freeze order focuses on the leadership of the sectarian groups, while hardcore terrorists are absent from the list. Moreover, accounts of individuals have been frozen, whereas no action has been taken against accounts of banned groups.

He suggests that a comprehensive action covering both traditional and non-traditional sources was required instead of just targeting the normal banking.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2016