FATF & militancy

Published September 14, 2022

TWO recent developments — separate but both related to militancy — require the attention of the state as lack of action in these matters can cost the country dearly in economic terms, along with disturbing internal security.

The first issue concerns FATF, the multilateral anti-money laundering and terrorism financing watchdog.

A delegation of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF affiliate, was recently in the country to monitor compliance with the watchdog’s requirements. It has noted that Pakistan’s level of effectiveness is “low” on 10 of 11 anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terror goals, even though the country is compliant with 38 out of 40 technical recommendations.

Read: There and back again: A timeline of Pakistan's unfortunate 'grey listing' by FATF

While this is not expected to block Pakistan’s exit from the FATF ‘grey list’ when the body holds its plenary next month, it would be in our best interests to ensure all requirements are met so that there are no lacunae which hostile actors can exploit to keep Pakistan on this unenviable list.

While it appears Pakistan is consistently being asked to ‘do more’ on terror financing, we have little choice in the matter. Among the areas flagged for improvement is the need to investigate and prosecute those involved in money laundering; FATF also wants improvement in the prosecution of individuals involved in terror financing, and the disruption of their networks. Pakistan — already facing an economic crisis compounded by the devastating floods — simply cannot afford to ignore this matter, as being put back on the grey list will impact the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and trade freely with the world.

That is why the state must do all possible to take Pakistan off the grey list permanently. That said, the foreign powers that are influential in FATF must also deal with Pakistan’s case on merit, and not be swayed by geopolitical considerations or the influence of states hostile to this country.

The second issue of importance concerns the return of militancy in KP’s merged tribal districts and their adjacent regions.

Editorial: Militancy redux

The issue was recently raised in the KP Assembly, with opposition lawmakers hammering the PTI’s provincial government for its ‘poor’ response to the renewed threat. They pointed to the rising incidents of gun attacks, targeted killings and extortion in the sensitive area, while it was also said that militants were roaming around freely in parts of the province. One ANP member went as far as to accuse the provincial administration of playing the role of “Taliban facilitator”.

Also, families from Tirah in Khyber district have started to flee after TTP fighters were reportedly spotted in the region.

Moreover, Tuesday’s bombing in Swat’s Kabal area indicates that such fears are not unfounded.

The state can ill afford to ignore these warning signs. There must be transparency vis-à-vis the status of negotiations with the TTP, while under no circumstances should space be given to these bloodthirsty actors to do as they please.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2022

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