Reports emerge of surge in Taliban fund-raising in Pakistan
As the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) began a plenary meeting on Monday that will assess Pakistan’s efforts to tackle terror financing, reports have emerged of a sharp increase in fund-raising by the Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil.
The FATF’s virtual plenary meeting, which will conclude on June 25, will decide whether to retain Pakistan in the “grey list” or the list of nations under increased monitoring by the multilateral watchdog. Pakistan was placed on the list in June 2018 for failing to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Recent reports have said there has been a spurt in fund-raising and recruitment by the Afghan Taliban on Pakistani soil, especially in the restive Balochistan province. Several top Taliban leaders are believed to be based in Balochistan and form part of the Quetta Shura, named after the capital city of the province.
Donations to the Afghan Taliban are on the “upswing” in Balochistan as the group intensifies attacks on Afghan forces ahead of the drawdown of US forces, locals told VOA. The international broadcaster funded by the US cited multiple sources and eyewitnesses as saying that fundraising for the Taliban “has continued in various parts of Pakistan”.
A resident of Duki, 210 kilometres east of Quetta, told VOA that Afghan Taliban militants stay with coal miners in nearby mountains and come to the local bazaar every Friday to solicit 5,000 to 10,000 Pakistani rupees from shopkeepers.
An unnamed member of the Balochistan assembly said members of the Taliban “openly hold fundraising campaigns” in several areas of the province such as Quetta, Kuchlak, Pashtun Abad, Ishaq Abad and Farooqia town. “It is not a secret,” he said, adding he suspected Taliban supporters use the money to fund the fight against the Afghan government.
A resident of Quetta said he regularly witnessed Taliban members seeking funds at mosques. The resident quoted a Taliban member telling a congregation at a mosque that if someone cannot go for jihad or holy war, he should support the Taliban financially.
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Both VOA and Germany’s public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported multiple videos have emerged on social media, showing clerics and others allegedly collecting donations for the Taliban. A former parliamentarian from Balochistan told DW that the Taliban is engaged in recruitment on Pakistani soil.
These development come at a time when the Taliban have captured some 30 districts across Afghanistan in an offensive launched since the US military withdrawal began on May 1.
In its reports assessing Pakistan’s counter-terror financing efforts since the country was placed on the grey list in 2018, FATF listed the Taliban among eight terror groups involved in fund-raising on Pakistani soil. In 2019, FATF’s experts concluded Pakistan had done a lot to align its domestic laws with international counter-terror obligations but failed to do enough on the ground to curb fund-raising or freeze assets of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Since then, Pakistan has taken steps to crack down on fund-raising by LeT and JuD, but Indian experts believe little has been done to rein in the activities of the Afghan Taliban, especially the Haqqani Network, which has close ties with the Pakistani military.
Following its last plenary meeting in February, FATF retained Pakistan in its grey list and urged the country to complete an action plan to counter terror financing before June, including steps to prosecute individuals and entities involved in such activities.
Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the fund-raising by the Taliban on Pakistani soil went against everything the world community was doing to tackle terror financing.
“Now that the US has announced it plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September, the Taliban is strengthening its position, security-wise through offensive campaigns and finance-wise by the campaign to raise money. Given the Taliban’s long-standing connections with Pakistan’s deep state, the country provides a conducive environment for raising such finances. All this is mocking the efforts by FATF to neutralise Pakistan’s support for terror financing,” he said.