ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday notified a 2019 order of the United Nations Security Council that would provide a legal basis for freezing or seizure of properties owned by individuals and organisations designated by the council as terrorists.

“The Federal Government issued the United Nations Security Council (Freezing and Seizure) Order, 2019 in accordance with the provisions of Pakistan’s United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Act, 1948 (Act No. XIV of 1948),” the Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement issued to the media.

The order has been issued to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regarding the implementation of designation of persons and entities under the UNSC resolutions. Pakistan, despite making some progress in overcoming the shortcomings in its counterterrorism financing and anti-money laundering regimes, continues to remain under the cloud at the global illicit financing watchdog. After failing to adequately convince the FATF, Pakistan is now required to complete actions it has to take by the May timeline. The next FATF plenary is due in June this year.

Order issued to meet requirements of Financial Action Task Force

The order, moreover, has come against the backdrop of reports that the government is finally readying itself for a decisive action against extremist and militant groups after having dithered for decades. A meeting of the National Security Committee had on Feb 21 directed law enforcement agencies to accelerate actions against proscribed groups and also reinstated a ban on the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).

The directive came amid a stand-off with India in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, giving an impression that it was being done under the pressure of the situation. However, officials insisted that the decision on action against the proscribed groups was decided long before and its objective was to get a favourable outcome at the FATF.

The FO said the newly issued order had been formulated in line with the UNSC and FATF standards. “The objective of the UNSC (Freezing and Seizure) Order 2019 is to streamline the procedure for implementation of Security Council sanctions against designated individuals and entities,” the statement said.

The FO spokesman recalled that “the Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter authorises the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), acting under Article 41, to decide measures, not involving the use of armed force, to give effect to its decisions for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

International law expert Ahmer Bilal Soofi, while talking to Dawn, said the directive issued by the government was an “executive order” pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Act, 1948 (Act No. XIV of 1948). He said it was required for taking specific actions under any UNSC resolution which in this case was action against proscribed individuals and entities, although the (UNSC) law provided enabling competence for the implementation on the Security Council resolutions.

Over the years, the sanctions regime of the United Nations Security Council had evolved, the FO said, adding that a key measure of these sanctions regimes is “assets freeze” under which states were required to freeze/seize the assets of designated entities and individuals as soon as they were designated by the relevant UNSC Sanctions Committee.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2019