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Pakistan and its tolerance for terror
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The FATF Plenary meeting commenced in Paris on February 16 and once again chose to keep Pakistan into its grey list. Apparently, two 'brotherly' countries like Turkey and Malasya (and two non-official dictatorships like Pakistan) decided to stand by what has been many times defined 'the most dangerous country in the world'. However, both Pakistan's neighbours and those monitoring the developments in the country have a different opinion. FATF recently claimed on social media to investigate money laundering and terror funding, but here there's something else it should consider before dancing again and again the same minuet expressing “satisfaction over the steps taken by Pakistan to curb terror financing” while demanding “that the country further tightens its laws to bring individuals involved in money laundering and terror financing to task”. Here there's some food for thoughts. Apart from allowing terror groups freedom to collect funds, in fact, Pakistani law enforcement authorities have shown similar laxity to investigate and prosecute narcotics and fake currency smugglers. In the year 2019 alone, heroin seizures in Sri Lanka, Maldives and India topped 1500 kg, with a street value of over US$ 675 million. Estimates suggest that over 1000 tonnes of drugs are produced annually in Afghanistan. These are transported to Pakistan by trucks/cars that require to cross multiple checkpoints manned by the Pakistan military. The sheer volume of these consignments passing through without obstacles is mind boggling. A Pakistani vessel Al Madina was seized in May 2019 with 330 kg of heroin. The captain of the ship, a Pakistani national by the name of Safdar Ali, accepted that he had made several such trips, implying that the seizure was just the tip of the iceberg. He also disclosed that the kingpins controlling the smuggling operation in the Arabain Sea were based in Karachi and Gwadar. Involvement of Pakistani gangs was also noticed in the seizure of a huge consignment (532 kg) of heroin at Attari, India in June 2019. The consignment was destined for Jammu and Kashmir. The mastermind behind this operation, Farooq Lone, is based in Lahore. Hundreds of Pakistani drug smugglers are languishing in Sri Lankan jails from where they continue to run their operations. Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Sirisena, on numerous occasions, had expressed concern over the drug menace and links with Islamic radical groups. In July last year, Sri Lankan Navy intercepted two boats, one Sri Lankan and one Iranian and recovered 155 kg of heroin. 4 Sri Lankans and 9 Iranians were arrested and investigations revealed that the kingpins were based in Karachi and Pasni. In November, the Sri Lankan Navy intercepted another  vessel carrying 224 kg of heroin. Interrogation of the crew revealed that it had received the consignment from a Pakistani vessel at high seas. Earlier, in April, Maldivian police recovered 149 kg of heroin buried on an uninhabited island that was suspected to have been left by a Pakistani fishing vessel. In October 2019, Maldivian Defence Forces intercepted a vessel and recovered 74 kg of heroin suspected to have originated from Pakistan. India has also repeatedly expressed concerns of deep-rooted links between the Pakistani security apparatus and the thriving terror network in the country. Apart from threats of terrorism, fake Indian currency originating from Pakistan has been an ongoing concern for Indian agencies. In May 2019, three Pakistani nationals Muhammad Akhtar, Nadia Anwar and Nasir Uddin, were arrested at Kathmandu Airport upon their arrival from Qatar. They were carrying fake Indian currency worth over a million US Dollars. Consignments of fake currencies were also seized from Birgunj,Nepal in August 2019, Dhaka in September 2019 and recently on February 9, 2020 at Mumbai airport  from a passenger who had arrived  from Dubai. Surprisingly, there has not been a single seizure of fake currency inside Pakistan, or for that matter, why the Pakistani law enforcement has not launched investigations into the fake currency racket or the organized drug trafficking network. Evidence of the connection of these illicit businesses with terrorism will only surface if it is sought. And that is where intent comes in. If the FATF  ignores the Pakistani government’s deep-seated relation with terror and choose once again, despite all the evidences, to the country off the hook due to strategic considerations of the big players, it would only imply that the international watchdog itself is not convinced about what it wants.
Francesca Marino