PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police have established the Counter Terrorist Financing Unit (CTFU) to “reduce and investigate” the growing cases of extortion to finance terrorist activities.

“Extortion is taking place at a huge scale. This was a low priority area. There was confusion on who would deal with it in the first place,” KP Inspector General of Police Akhtar Hayat Khan told Dawn about the initiative.

A standing order issued by the Central Police Office said the volume of terror financing, extortion and transfer of money through illegal means, inland and across the borders, was higher than the number of registered cases.

It added that the cases reported to the police were just a tip of the iceberg.

IGP says even 30pc success of initiative will make a difference

The IGP said the police had created the fiscal space to get specialised equipment and gadgets and the required personnel to prop up the unit and get it going.

“I hope to see it [CTFU] up and running by the middle of next month,” he said.

Data shared with Dawn revealed that the province recorded 155 cases of extortion payment in 2022 alone and that 60 extortion payers disclosed the amount to the police but a bigger number declined to do so.

According to it, the amount paid to extortionists was estimated at Rs41 million.

“The scale and amount of extortion is, of course, much bigger than we know,” the police chief said.

However, in a recent background briefing, a top security official put the figure at Rs1.06 billion. It is not clear how the law-enforcement agency reached that sum.

The standing order, while outlining the objectives of the CTFU was to reduce the threat of terrorist financing by ‘detecting, preventing, deterring and disrupting the flow of terrorist finance.’

“I am banking on a 30 per cent success rate,” Mr Khan said.

“Even if we are able to reduce it by 30 per cent, it would certainly dent the terrorists’ ability to finance their activities. Less money means less activity. It is better to do something than fighting it with meagre resources. At the moment, we are doing nothing.”

The standing order said the CTFC would undertake to understand terrorist finance activity by exploiting intelligence to prevent and detect illicit activity and investigate to disrupt and deter it by holding extortionists to account.

According to it, the CTFC will also review its legislative framework and propose new laws or amendments in the existing instruments with the view to enhance legal powers of law- enforcement agencies to disrupt and pursue terrorism financing in the face of more technological and complex threats that Pakistan and its interest might face.

Currently, Pakistan has several laws dealing with terrorist financing, including the NACTA Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 2947, Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010 and Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

As part of the effort, the police chief said he was formally setting up the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Financial Intelligence Cell that would be linked with financial units to receive suspicious transaction reports, work on them, and initiate their own suspicious activity reports.

“We are going to procure highly sophisticated technology and digital systems. We need to have a technological edge over terrorists financing their activities through extortion. If we can squeeze them, it will have an impact on the ground. Better technology and better methods will yield better results,” he said.

The IGP said increasing the police’s digital footprint was high on his agenda.

“There is technology available and we are certainly going to tap into it. With better reorganised force and specialised units with better technology, I am sure we can make a much better and much bigger impact to stem the tide,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023

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