Pak preps for FATF review with some action against Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed
Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a multilateral watchdog that monitors terror funding, will meet in Orlando, Florida on June 20-21, when Pakistan’s progress on a 27-point action plan is likely to be discussed.Updated: Jun 08, 2019 05:57 IST
The Pakistani government appears to have taken some action over the last month against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed and his brother-in-law Abdul Rahman Makki, and restrained the activities of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, in an apparent bid to placate the international community ahead of a crucial Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting this month.
FATF, a multilateral watchdog that monitors terror funding, will meet in Orlando, Florida on June 20-21, when Pakistan’s progress on a 27-point action plan is likely to be discussed -- though a decision on whether it remains in the “grey list” or is downgraded into a “black list” is expected only by October when a 15-month deadline for Islamabad ends and the FATF meets for its plenary in Paris.
Makki was arrested by Pakistani authorities on May 15 and LeT chief Saeed was prevented from addressing a gathering at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on Eid-ul-Fitr on Wednesday. This was clearly an ostensible move to project Pakistan’s “commitment” to act against terror groups before the FATF meeting, a person aware of the developments told HT.
Hafiz Saeed carries a $10 million reward on his head and Makki $2 million.
The Pakistani authorities have also asked Azhar and his brothers, Azhar Ibrahim and Rauf Asghar, to lie low with the former moving in and around Bhawalpur, the person quoted above added.
Rauf Asghar, who was put under preventive custody after the February 14 Pulwama suicide bombing, has been set free.
Apart from FATF, the US in March pressured Pakistan to take “tangible and irreversible action” against terrorist groups on its soil and deny safe haven to them to launch cross-border attacks. The development came as Washington reiterated its firm support to New Delhi in the fight against terrorism.
Pakistan’s new placatory moves also come against the backdrop of its attempts to secure a multi-billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund as it grapples with a staggering fiscal deficit.
Being on FATF’s “grey list” formally acknowledges Pakistan as a country where terrorist groups can carry out activities and raise funds. It is a label that makes foreign investment and loans from global financial institutions difficult. A downgrade to the “black list” could potentially lead to some sanctions.
India has kept up pressure against Pakistan at global forums, which led to several countries backing New Delhi and paving the way for the blacklisting of Azhar by the United Nations Security Council on May 1.
Sharat Sabharwal, a former Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, said Pakistan would play ball for some time as the FATF sword is hanging over its head.
“They will ban some organisations and arrest some people. But all that is reversible. We will have to continue to build pressure on Pakistan. There is no silver bullet,” he added. He said efforts to isolate Pakistan globally can have limited results as other countries will be driven by their own interests.
The Imran Khan government used former Union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s May 2 statement of asking FATF to blacklist Pakistan to accuse India of politicking.
Pakistan was placed on the “grey list” last June and the multilateral watchdog said as recently as in February the country hadn’t done enough to counter the financing of groups such as JeM and LeT.
At the time, the FATF laid out a 27-point action plan and experts believe that while Pakistan has taken several steps to improve its laws related to terror financing, and money laundering, and to ban groups and individuals designated by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee, it hasn’t done enough to enforce rules and regulations or to crack down on proscribed terrorist organisations and leaders.
Of late, while Islamabad has through media diplomacy made clear its desire to engage with India, the Narendra Modi government has no plans for a formal dialogue till Pakistan takes decisive action against terrorists on its soil.
Since the Balakot airstrike, Pakistan this month opened two out of 11 air route way points through its territory into India. The remaining are expected to be opened after the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on June 13-14 in Bishkek when Prime Minister Narendra Modi can at best be expected to exchange formal courtesies with his Pakistani counterpart, the people quoted above said.