PAKISTAN has made some headway against terror financing, but its progress remains uneven. That is the gist of a US State Department report released on Thursday in conjunction with its annual country reports on terrorism. Given that the Financial Action Task Force in June placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries that could have economic sanctions imposed on them if they fail to prevent terrorists from accessing funds, this assessment would be of deep concern to policymakers here. The document acknowledges that the security operations in Fata have significantly degraded the capabilities of terrorist outfits to wreak havoc in the country. However, it alleges that Pakistan has not fully implemented the UNSC sanctions regime against Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group. It also accuses the country of having “failed to significantly limit Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan”. The implication is that Pakistan has been lethargic in acting against groups that are allegedly ‘externally focused’.
There is no doubt that despite the reduction in the frequency and magnitude of terrorist attacks, the threat of violence lingers. Intelligence-based operations continue to unearth militant splinter groups. Complacency is not an option, something that is as clear to Pakistan as it is to the world. The government periodically places notices in the newspapers listing banned or ‘under watch’ organisations, urging the public not to give them donations. The SECP earlier this year banned funding to entities and individuals included in the consolidated list issued by the UNSC sanctions regime; penalty for noncompliance was set at Rs10m. Following that, the Punjab government seized a large number of assets owned by the Jamaatud Dawa and its charity wing, the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation; it was unfortunate that the JuD successfully petitioned the Lahore High Court against that move. More recently, the ECP refused to allow an LeT affiliated group to register as a political party. The country made a high-level commitment at the FATF meeting in June that it would plug the loopholes in the financial system that terrorists use to their advantage, an assertion that Finance Minister Asad Umar reiterated barely two weeks after taking office. Quite correctly, Mr Umar described the undertaking as one that is in Pakistan’s own interest. Given that a new government is taking an unambiguous stance on the matter, it is only reasonable that it be given the space to fulfil its obligations.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018