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Pakistan escapes terror fund censure, yet again
  • Pakistan FATF
    Pakistan FATF
With friends having big stakes coming to its rescue, Pakistan has yet again escaped sanctions by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It remains on the ‘grey list’, but with no prospects of returning to the safety of “white list.”  

Indeed, this is Pakistan’s ‘escape’ phase in that it allowed one of the most wanted terrorists, Ehsanullah Ehsan, founder of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to escape from its high-security custody. The man claims to have escaped, with his family also hoodwinking the authorities joining him, all the way to Turkey.

It took Islamabad more than a month to admit that Ehsan has escaped and that it was “looking at all aspects of the case.” The beautifully vague admission came from Interior Minister, Ijaz Butt, a former intelligence officer who was himself a big player dealing with export of terrorism while serving in the Pakistan Army.

Ehsan’s escape and Pakistan’s ‘escape’ at Paris, where FATF was meeting, may not be directly connected. But both underscore Pakistan’s role in nurturing and exporting terrorism.

The plenary at Paris attended by 800 representatives of 205 countries and global financial institutions, had met to decide whether Pakistan stays in or out of the 'Grey List' it is currently placed in.

Helping Pakistan escape the Black list was China that must keep its “iron friend” afloat and economically viable in order to push its ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and to stave off trouble from its own Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Turkey and Malaysia are fellow-Islamic nations with ambitions to lead the Islamic world and use it play in global affairs. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Malaysia and hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ensure their support. In addition, the United States is also tacitly wooing Pakistan that it requires to evacuate from Afghanistan. At FATF’s meeting held in Beijing in January, Islamabad submitted its compliance report and got support from the FATF current chair and its "all-weather friend" China and a few Western powers.

Pakistan was placed on the Grey List by the FATF in June 2018, and was given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019. The FATF plenary had then noted that Pakistan addressed only five out of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, responsible for a series of attacks in India. The FATF said it strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020. Just days before the FATF meet, Pakistan had sentenced Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attack and the Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief, to 11 years in two terror financing cases. This, it needs stressing, is the usual Pakistani ploy each time it is facing prospects of global censure.

The FATF has placed Pakistan on its Grey List for its failure to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups like LeT   and JeM. The US welcomed Saeed’s conviction and said that his sentencing was an important step forward for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terror financing and holding the LeT accountable for its crimes.

In the Beijing meeting, Pakistan provided a list of its action taken to comply with the FATF diktat. But FATF noted that there were “significant deficiencies” in the performance and the 125 page report with annexures running into another 500 pages.

A direct victim of Pakistan’s terrorism and terror funding, India has been focusing on strengthening its case against Islamabad, to place it in the FATF Black List, for its failure in taking action against terror-financing and the Fake Indian Currency (FICN) menace. The continuing worry of the Indian security agencies is the inability so far to dismantle the sophisticated currency production machines, which produce ‘high quality’ FICN, close imitations of genuine Indian Currency Notes (ICN). Besides being smuggled into India, it has also created self-financing criminal networks in Middle-East, South-East and South Asian regions and China. Pakistan’s primary objective in infusing FICN is to finance terror, use the network for espionage purposes and to attempt economic de-stabilization. Pakistan has survived for now thanks to benefactors who need it and/or want to use it for their benefit. In the long run, however, terror that it has nurtured is bound to corrode beyond repair its society.