Pakistan acts against Saeed in bid to stay off terror-financing watchlist

166 views

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has officially banned two charities linked to radical leader Hafiz Saeed, an official said on Wednesday, in a move against the UN-designated “terrorist” that the United States says was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

The move comes days before a key meeting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering watchdog, that will consider a US-sponsored motion to place Pakistan on a list of countries failing to prevent terrorism financing.

Punjab Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Ministry of Interior issued a notification against Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) this week.

“We have received the interior ministry directions, and according to that, Hafiz Saeed and his charities, like JuD and FIF, have been banned to operate in Pakistan,” Sanaullah said.

“As per the instructions, we have already started taking over all the facilities, offices, schools, dispensaries and seminaries which belong to the JuD and FIF.”

Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a measure that officials fear could hurt its economy.

The United States has been threatening to get tough with Islamabad over its alleged ties with militants, and last month President Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion.

Islamabad, which denies assisting militants in Afghanistan and India, has reacted angrily to US threats of further punitive measures.

A meeting of FATF member states is due to take place next week in Paris, where the organization could adopt the motion on Pakistan. The FATF, an intergovernmental body based in Paris, sets global standards for fighting illicit finance.

Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, said that the United States and Britain put forward the motion several weeks ago, and later persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor it.

“We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Ismail said, speaking by telephone from Europe. “We are also quite hopeful that even if the US did not withdraw the nomination that we will prevail and not be put on the watch list.”

Pakistan had been on the FATF watchlist from 2012 to 2015.

A senior US official who follows US policy in the region said Pakistan has “always been selective” in cracking down on militants who use its territory as a base.

“It is time for that to stop, and so we are working with our allies, who also are affected, to see effective action against groups such as the Haqqanis and elements of the Taliban,” said the official, referring to militants operating along the border with Afghanistan.

The FATF had previously warned Islamabad it could be put back on the watch list without further efforts to crack down on the flow of funds to militants.

Pakistani officials and Western diplomats say that being put on the FATF watch list could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy as it would make it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.

“If you’re put on a terror watch list, you’re made to go through all the (extra) scrutiny,” Pakistan’s former counterterrorism chief, Khawaja Khalid Farooq, said. “It can hurt the economy very badly.”

Officials also fear it would be harder and more expensive for Pakistan to borrow money from international debt markets if it was put on the FATF monitoring list. — Reuters


166 views