Back and forth: On Pakistan's moves to tackle terrorism

Pakistan must fulfil its FATF obligations by acting against terrorists

August 25, 2020 12:02 am | Updated 12:40 pm IST

Pakistan’s moves to tackle terrorism on its soil, particularly cross-border terrorism, have often been described as “one step forward and one step back”, when it comes to the broader support terror groups have enjoyed within the country. Thus, it would come as little surprise that within days of issuing a “Statutory Regulatory Order” (SRO) listing ( that included Dawood Ibrahim, the LeT’s Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi, and about 85 other designated terrorists ) directing officials to implement the UNSC committee resolutions against them, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry (MFA) denied that the listing was new. The listing had UNSC and Interpol information on at least five Pakistani passports and three Karachi addresses that belonged to Dawood , the former underworld don and the accused mastermind of Mumbai’s 1993 blasts. However, the MFA says that the SRO did not imply an admission that he lives there. Instead, it argues, the move was a routine one, as a part of Pakistan’s international commitments. Accordingly, Pakistan is required to align its domestic terror listings with those issued by the UNSC’s ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee (under UNSC Resolutions 1267/1989/2253 ). Thus far, the domestic listing, maintained under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), had not included either Dawood or Lakhvi, who was tried briefly for the 26/11 attacks but was granted bail in 2014. In contrast, LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and JeM chief Masood Azhar, who was designated by the UNSC in May 2019, have been added to the domestic NACTA list. The MFA also claims that the listing that included Dawood and Lakhvi had been issued earlier, a claim countered by Indian government sources, who say this is a first.

The confusion over the SRO and Pakistan’s disclaimer give credence to the belief that its government lacks a seriousness of purpose when it comes to its actions against all terrorists. If, in fact, the SRO had named these terrorists in past orders, then why has it failed to add them to its domestic listing? If it has included Dawood’s addresses and passports on its own SRO, directing officials to ensure everyone on the list does not have access to funding, arms or travel, then for the Foreign Ministry to say it is paying lip service to the FATF directives, is a matter of concern. Finally, regardless of which list Pakistan places any of the terrorists named, and when it did so, the question is what has Pakistan done to investigate, prosecute and apprehend them? In October, Pakistan is expected to face some of these questions at the FATF plenary session, which will decide if its actions merit a reprieve from the grey or “increased monitoring” list, or be downgraded to the black or “high-risk jurisdiction” list and face sanctions. Pakistan needs to show proof of its actions on the ground, rather than going back and forth on the paperwork.

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