Last week, Pakistan government issued two notifications imposing what it called “further” financial sanctions on 88 terrorists. The notifications ratified a ban on many key leaders of terror outfits and entities. These include 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-D’awa chief Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e Mohammad chief Masood Azhar the brain behind attack on the Indian Parliament, underworld Don Dawood Ibrahim who has been carrying out smuggling and other illegal activities culminating into his becoming India’s most wanted terrorist responsible for 1993 Mumbai blasts which killed more than 200 persons, Taliban leaders Jalalludin Haqqani and Khalil Ahmad Haqqani. Others banned include members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, Harkat-ul-Ansar and several other notorious organizations. The notifications provide for seizure of their movable and immovable properties and freezing of their bank accounts. The notifications prohibit transferring money through financial institutions and travelling abroad. All this has been done in accordance with the new guidelines of the United Nations Security Council.
By including Dawood Ibrahim’s name in the list along with his Karachi address, Pakistan has for the first time, admitted his presence in Pakistan. Until last year Islamabad had been denying Dawood’s presence in Pakistan despite India providing clinching proof of his residences in that country.
On the face of it, Pakistan’s action seems to be a positive step in dealing with the menace of terrorism. But actually, that may not be the case.
It is well known that Pakistan is under tremendous pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris based international terror-funding watchdog agency; which has put the country in ‘grey’ list since 2018. The FATF has been extending deadlines for Pakistan to act against the terrorists, if Islamabad wants to come out of the grey list. Else, the country could be put into the ‘blacklist’ to join North Korea and Iran which would further complicate the country’s ability to take loans from global institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Union etc. With Pakistan’s economy already in a shambles, that is something the country can hardly bear.
Action against terrorists in Pakistan, is nothing new. These have at best been half-hearted, only to show the world that Pakistan is sincere in fighting against the terrorists. Everyone knows how Hafiz Saeed was arrested but released repeatedly on one pretext or the other over the preceding decade. The way hard core terrorists have been changing the names of their organizations to circumvent bans is a glaring example of insincerity of Pakistan government in acting against them. Hafiz Saeed started with LeT, which became Jamat ud D’awa and later Falah-i Insaniyat foundation (FIF) and till date continues with its nefarious activities. Had Pakistan been sincere in dealing with terrorism, it would not have hidden Osama bin Laden for five years. Dr. Afridi who is said to have played an important role in enabling US special troops in capturing Osama is still in Pakistan’s custody. What has taken Pakistan so long to bring the culprits of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to book by Pakistani authorities, is anybody’s guess.
Even in the present ban order, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Dawood Ibrahim have not been registered under anti-terrorism laws of Pakistan. Only a statutory regulatory order has been slapped on them. However, in a volte-face, Pakistan removed Dawood’s name from the list within a few hours after it was circulated. This is indeed proof of Pakistan’s insincerity in taking action against terrorists.
In this backdrop, Pakistan’s latest action has to be taken with a pinch of salt. One needs to keep in mind that Pakistan’s compulsion is to wriggle out of the FATF grey list. But having understood Islamabad’s game plan, FATF has put it on final notice asking it to act on the remaining 23 of the 27 points by October this year. What is needed is a genuine realization that the menace of terrorism needs to be rooted out in the interest of global peace. Unfortunately, that wisdom is yet to dawn up on Pakistan. It continues to use terrorists as an instrument of its state policy.
Script: Ashok Handoo, Political Commentator