Pakistan's central bank has directed all banks to freeze accounts with millions of rupees linked to 2,021 individuals under an anti-terror law though the move will not affect anti-India groups such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD).
The action was taken against individuals listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which permits the seizure or freezing of funds and assets of a proscribed person.
Some prominent names on the list are Maulvi Abdul Aziz (Lal Masjid), Mohsin Najfi (Shia leader), Maulvi Ahmed Ludhianvi, Pariyal Shah, Maulvi Kabir, Aurangzeb Farooqi (all Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat), Allama Maqsood Domki (Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen), Sibtain Shirazi, Mirza Ali, Sheikh Nayyar (all Tehreek-i-Jafria Pakistan), Ramzan Mengal (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi), and Shahid Bikik (Lyari Aman Committee).
This list, however, does not include Kashmir-centric groups such as the JuD, Lashkar-e-Taiba and similar entities.
The list of 2,021 individuals — mostly leaders and office-bearers of sectarian groups — was sent to all banks by the State Bank of Pakistan. Surprisingly, the list includes some people who have died.
"It is sad the government has used different criteria to segregate terror groups," said social activist Jibran Nasir, adding that the government is focusing on sectarian organisations at home and leaving aside those that export terror.
The government can list an individual as a proscribed person in the Fourth Schedule of the anti-terror law if he is suspected of involvement in terrorism or is an activist of an organisation kept under observation.
The list sent to the banks does not include the names of all individuals listed in the Fourth Schedule. Senior counter-terror officials said the complete list may have between 6,500 and 8,000 names. It is not clear what criteria were used to draw up the list forwarded to the banks. Despite being a public document, the Fourth Schedule has never been published in its entirety by the government.
The media reported this was the first time that authorities have ordered that freezing of such a large number of bank accounts on suspicion of links to terrorism. The financial aspect of terrorism has so far received little attention in Pakistan. The latest move follows criticism that not enough was being done to squelch such financing.
Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies director Amir Rana said he was not optimistic about the effectiveness of the move. "The freeze order focuses on the leadership of the sectarian groups, while hardcore terrorists are absent from the list." he said. “Accounts of individuals have been frozen, whereas no action has been taken against accounts of banned groups."