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International Relations

The statement of the Financial Action Task Force in Paris is another message to Islamabad from the international community of the mounting costs of its decades-old lax policy towards terror groups. Significantly, it came a week after the February 14 Pulwama attack, and the global terror finance watchdog condemned, in no uncertain terms, the suicide bombing of the CRPF convoy that left 40 personnel dead. It issued a 10-point advisory to Pakistan if it wants to be out of the “grey list” of countries posing a “risk to the international system”. Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018, and will be required to show compliance or face being “black-listed” by the session in October 2019. A black-list would mean enhanced financial scrutiny of its government, possible sanctions against its central bank, and a downgrade of its financial and credit institutions. This is something Pakistan, already facing an acute debt crisis, can ill-afford. Amongst the FATF’s stern observations of what it called Pakistan’s lack of “understanding” of the terror finance risks posed by groups, such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, was a clear message: Islamabad must visibly demonstrate that it has taken measures to crack down on and shut down the infrastructure and finances of these groups. The first deadline to show results is May 2019, with a review in June. This goes even beyond the Security Council guidelines under its 1267 listing, that oblige Pakistan to ensure that terror entities do not travel out of the country, or have access to funding or weaponry.

Proof that Pakistan took on board the FATF’s warnings and potential action came even as the plenary was under way. Prime Minister Imran Khan held a meeting of his national security officials, and vowed to double down to tackle terror groups in Pakistan and to put two Hafiz Saeed-led LeT offshoots, the Jamaat ud Dawa and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, on its schedule (1) list of banned organisations. A day later, security forces took over “administrative control” of a madrasa in Bahawalpur believed to be run by the Masood Azhar-led JeM, which was behind the Pulwama attack. But the measures do not go far enough or inspire confidence. Mr. Khan’s own speech in response to India’s demand for action on those responsible for Pulwama was a disappointing mix of denial and opportunism to raise the Kashmir issue. The banning of the JuD and the FIF doesn’t appear to have affected the groups in the slightest, and a day after taking over the Bahawalpur seminary, Pakistan’s Information Minister announced that its links to the JeM were simply “Indian propaganda”. The world community must make it clear to the Pakistan government the possible international and financial repercussions of ignoring the FATF’s timeline.

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