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To ban or not to ban?

Published Feb 02, 2017 06:13am

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HERE we go again. This story is getting a little old now, so let’s hope there is a different ending this time round. Hafiz Saeed has been placed under house arrest, and there are indications that the two groups he leads — the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniyat (FiF) Foundation — may be listed as “banned organisations” in the near future. This may or may not be a significant step, but the law mandates it upon the government considering both groups are listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.

Now we have reports that pressure is mounting on the government from the Asia Pacific Group, which works with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to ensure that individual countries have enough safeguards in place to prevent their financial system from being used for the purposes of terror financing. If this group officially determines that Pakistan does not have enough safeguards in place, and that its financial system poses the risk that funds connected with a terrorist group could pass through it into the international financial system, it can place the country on a black list that would so raise the costs of interacting with the global financial system that our trade, remittances, bilateral and multilateral aid and loan disbursements would all be significantly affected.

Meaning, if the reports are true, we are currently running the risk of substantial disconnection with the global economy.

This issue has been running for at least six years now. The presence in the country and the open large-scale operations of groups listed as terrorist outfits by the United States was one. The other was that the FATF wanted tax evasion listed as a money-laundering offence in the country’s code to certify that its financial system was in compliance with international best practices.

In 2011 and 2012, Pakistan briefly flirted with being blacklisted by the FATF, leading to some concern in financial circles about the ramifications. A few steps were taken in light of that threat, and the country graduated up to the ‘grey list’, meaning its financial system might pose a threat to the international financial system if certain remedial steps were not taken. The measure to bring tax evasion under the Anti Money Laundering Act found resistance in parliament, but the FATF was willing to negotiate on that since the demand was being resisted in many other countries of the world as well.


On the matter of terror financing and shutting down the operations of listed terror groups, the demand was non-negotiable.


But on the matter of terror financing, and shutting down the operations of listed terror groups and all individuals known (and named in the UN Resolution), the demand was non-negotiable. We emerged from the grey list in February 2015, but only against a commitment that action would be taken under UNSCR 1267. The matter was announced with some pride by the finance minister.

That episode had come at the end of a period of serious wrangling within the country. In late December 2014, Nacta released an amended list of banned organisations in the country, in which the JuD was “Enlisted under observation Second Schedule” since 2007. A few days later, then secretary of state John Kerry arrived in the country and, amongst other things, asked after the enforcement of UNSCR 1267 as part of the cooperation in the war on terror. Only a few days later, an amended list of banned groups was released by the interior ministry, in which a total of 11 organisations were “Enlisted under UNSCR 1267”, including FiF and JuD. They were shown as proscribed since March 2012 and Dec 2008 respectively. It appears that some earlier notifications to the effect were being acknowledged officially.

Then the list disappeared and, a few days later, Nacta’s website was taken down comprehensively. Later, a series of contradictory statements belied the fact that a tussle was under way behind the scenes around the issue. The minister of defence went on record to say that there was “no reason to ban JuD” because it was a charity group, and a few days later the Foreign Office officially confirmed that the group had been banned. Then came a series of contradictory statements from unnamed officials in the interior ministry and intelligence agencies, some claiming there was a ban while others denied it.

Days later, the JuD held a large rally in Karachi, which was addressed by Hafiz Saeed himself, where he mocked the idea of a ban on his group and announced the commencement of an ambulance service for the city.

That was the background to the removal of Pakistan from the FATF’s ‘grey list’ that came the following month. And the matter went to the back burner for a few months.

Later in 2016, we began hearing reports of renewed pressure coming on Pakistan to move against the groups and individuals listed in UN Resolution 1267. Once again, the open mention of this controversy in a report carried by this paper sparked a furore and angry denials from all. But now, we’re seeing more reports, anonymously sourced for the moment, about renewed pressure to act against these groups followed by the move to place Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.

So what exactly is going on? Clearly this is one of the several proverbial ‘third rails’ of Pakistani politics. The stakes on either side are extremely high. On more than one occasion since 2010, the country has come to the very brink of a potential rupture with the international financial system on account of its failure to come into compliance with UNSCR 1267. In each case, a few partial steps have sufficed to pull things back from the brink.

But this time, reports are saying that the new presidential administration in Washington, DC may see things differently. How far does Pakistan really want to go in allowing groups and individuals listed as terrorists by the United States to roam and operate freely and organise rallies on its soil?

The writer is a member of staff.

khurram.husain@gmail.com

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn February 2nd, 2017



The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (31) Closed



SAchin Feb 02, 2017 08:39am

One thing's clear - Pakistan has been getting around rules for some time.

Muhammad zahid Feb 02, 2017 08:56am

Very informative article.

Raaz Feb 02, 2017 09:13am

No problem CPEC and China are there. Pakistan need not worry about opinion of other countries

byju Feb 02, 2017 09:28am

ofcourse, there is fear of something that has forced the hand of the government.

Alba Feb 02, 2017 09:45am

Terrorism is a broad term. Even legally terrorism is a broad term.

Feroz Feb 02, 2017 10:34am

When many within and outside the government are interconnected ideologically and have made common cause in the past, going after a few can lead to blackmail of partners within the government. The fall guys are not going to go happily into the sunset or jail without taking many others with them.

TORIS Feb 02, 2017 10:36am

By doing all these excercises, what message Pakistan is trying to give to the Other Countries and will they succeed ??

JOsh Feb 02, 2017 10:48am

Always enjoy your writing. Refreshingly honest and clear.

SN Feb 02, 2017 10:48am

CPEC will mainly benefit China. And in this century, one cannot put all eggs in the same basket.

aditya Feb 02, 2017 10:59am

@Raaz do u have any idea whatsoever what it means to be cut from international financial markets..

Suren Singh Sahni Feb 02, 2017 11:01am

bravo

Abdul Wani Feb 02, 2017 11:12am

@Raaz No Problem, a 46 billion dollar loan & a predator are always there.

Pakistani Feb 02, 2017 11:16am

Trump effects. Lol

Fudayl Zubaid Ahmad Feb 02, 2017 01:02pm

Excellent background details were provided by Khurram Hussain. When we don't nip the evil in the budding stage, it becomes a difficult task when the evil grows big. JuD and others took a very dangerous route by establishing highly efficient charity work and someone was not doing his job. Musharraf regime was the main culprit when JuD played a major role after the Kashmir earth quake in 2005. The interior chowdhry must address all these issues and stop blaming the previous governments and other factors.

RAVEENDRA NATH Feb 02, 2017 01:50pm

@Raaz - you are right,

adventurer Feb 02, 2017 02:29pm

@Pakistani

This ban means end for several beneficiaries who have been recepients of these funds. Besides such funds also is mostly used for converting black money. This is a useless tool for unaccounted money.

Reality Feb 02, 2017 02:43pm

Quite informative article. Yet there is one conclusion only. Such systems are designed to keep control on the policy matters and resources of the country, by few developed countries. This is not for bringing transparency in financial matters rather controlling the foreign policy and forcing what (developed countries) think is right. We all know bodies like FATF become toothless when the meter involves countries like india, america etc. Otherwise first thing the FATF shall control is budgets used by government intelligence agencies for creating terror groups.

ali Feb 02, 2017 03:04pm

@SN ...yes...you are right.

Last Word Feb 02, 2017 05:19pm

Pakistan would become peaceful, more developed and loved by its neighbours as well as rest of the world if it gets rid of the so called assets.

Rahul Feb 02, 2017 06:00pm

Trump knows how to twist arms to get what he wants. Now he has the power of Uncle Sam behind him.

mostly bull Feb 02, 2017 06:31pm

@Reality : Very good points raised here

Indian true friend of beloved pakistan Feb 02, 2017 06:30pm

@Raaz .Salam Raaz Babu. Don't be under notion that a 46 billion project by some alien country will solve all problem as believed by u. Ur nation is much more worth than this. Adopt some thing which will give ur country sustainable development .

A pakistani Feb 02, 2017 06:30pm

I think Trump's arrival is a blessing in disguise. His extreme measures against terrorism will wean away our beloved country from terrorism. State will finally take the bull by the horns and pakistan will become a " normal country" just like others

kaliraja thangamani Feb 02, 2017 07:07pm

A very sad commentary on handling matters relating to terror. This is not a happy reading. Strong leadership is needed.

Mustafa R. Feb 02, 2017 07:43pm

'but the law mandates it upon the government considering both groups are listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.'

No matter what the UN resolution says, the law of the land must not be circumvented. He should be tried in the court of law if there are any charges. Just fanatacism is not enough to punish anyone, world's two largest 'democracies' are now led by fanatics.

Mustafa R. Feb 02, 2017 10:20pm

@SAchin ;

A sovereign nation does not live by anyone else's rules.

Mustafa R. Feb 02, 2017 10:31pm

@byju;

That something is hundreds of billions of dollars our leaders have offshore which can be siezed with the stroke of a pen.

Mustafa R. Feb 02, 2017 11:21pm

@aditya;

'do u have any idea whatsoever what it means to be cut from international financial markets.'

They tried that against China, Iran and Syria but failed. If we had leaders like China and Iran these measures would fail too, as long as the people understand and make a choice to endure.

Mustafa R. Feb 02, 2017 11:38pm

'do u have any idea whatsoever what it means to be cut from international financial markets.'

Evidently Mr. Trump understands what it is like for the NATO troops in Afghanistan to be cut off from their supply lines. There is a reason why they didn't put Pakistan on the banned entry list.

ABDUL mAjId Feb 03, 2017 06:25am

@aditya Do u know about CPEC?

ABDUL Feb 03, 2017 06:28am

This is global conspiracy to stop Pakistan to attain financial independence.This is a conspiracy to stop CPEC.