Pakistan has informed global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that Masood Azhar, founder of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and his family are “missing.”
Azhar was listed as a designated terrorist by the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee on May 1, 2019.
Pakistan has claimed that there were only 16 U.N. designated terrorists in Pakistan, of which “seven are dead.” Out of the nine who are alive, seven had applied to the U.N. for exemption from financial and travel restrictions. They are: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, LeT financiers and members- Haji Muhammad Ashraf, Zafar Iqbal, Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi, Yahya Mohammad Mujahid and Arif Qasmani and al Qaeda financier Abdul Rehman. The restrictions involve freezing of bank accounts.
Pakistan has said that as many as 5,500 bank accounts of individuals and members of groups listed by the U.N. committees were frozen but added that “these individuals were allowed to work for wages,” unless arrested in criminal cases. Pakistan has claimed that it had achieved 222 convictions of terrorist financiers but most were imprisoned for only a few days, a source said.
FATF reviewing Pak case
The FATF is presently reviewing Pakistan’s case to see if it fulfils the global standards criteria to combat terror financing. The FATF is currently chaired by China.
When Pakistan’s response to action initiated against U.N. designated terrorists was sought at a meeting in October last, it “continued to state that Masood Azhar and his family were missing”, the source said. It could not explain why terrorist financing investigations were not launched against Azhar, 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi or the Haqqani leadership, the source added.
JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 last year where 40 CRPF personnel were killed in a car-bombing. Following this, a training camp run by it at Balakot in Pakistan was hit in a precision strike by the Indian Air Force on February 26. On March 5, Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior claimed that 44 members of banned organisations, including Azhar’s son Hamad and his brother, Abdul Raoof, were taken into “preventive detention.”
Pakistan has stated that it has arrested 38 district commanders of various terror outfits but none of them were designated by the U.N. body. Saeed was sentenced to five-and-a-half years on terror finance charges by a Lahore court on February 12, the first time he has been formally convicted of an offence. The case was registered in July 2019.
In the last FATF meeting held in January in Beijing, Pakistan is understood to have cleared about 14 of the 27 specific counter-terror goals set by the FATF to escape being placed on the “blacklist.” The final Plenary Group meeting is set to begin in Paris Sunday onward. The adverse listing by FATF implies that it would be difficult for Pakistan to get aid from the IMF, the World Bank, ADB and the European Union.
Pakistan has also claimed that it has received information from the Twitter headquarters, based on which it established that the Baloch Liberation Army had planned the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on November 23, 2018. “Pakistan stated that the Twitter profile which claimed responsibility for the attack belonged to a person identified as Raees Baloch based in Afghanistan. It also said he received around 1 million Pakistani rupees from one Dinesh Kumar in the UAE and the attack was coordinated by one ‘RB’,” the source said.
On Grey List
Pakistan was placed on the Grey List by the FATF in June 2018 and given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019, or face the risk of being placed on the blacklist with Iran and North Korea. Pakistan was placed on the Grey list in February 2012 and was removed from it in February 2015 after it passed a National Action Plan (NAP) to deal with terrorism following the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014. It was placed under severe restrictions in 2008-2012.
The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.