by Major Amit Bansal
From 2012-15, the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) kept Pakistan on Global Terror Financing Watchdog List. Though they dropped Pakistan from the list for a couple of years, they kept threatening them to put their house in order. The action of FATF shows that, at last, the global community has realised the role of Pakistan in terror financing, and is ready to take stern action against it. The country will be at the receiving end of the FATF Plenary and Working Group meeting on 18-23 February 2018 in Paris.
Pakistan, since its very inception, had been relying on non-state elements for spreading unrest in India. During the 1947 annexation of Kashmir, they used paid mercenaries and tribesman, in Operation Gibraltar of 1965 there was the Kashmiri Militia, in 1971, they operated as Razakars in East Pakistan. In the late seventies, Pakistan raised large armies of Mujahedeen’s to fight against the Soviet forces, in eighties they started sending terrorists in India and in the 21st century they were supporting Taliban, Al- Qaeda and ISIS, globally.
So, sadly for Pakistan, be it the military or the political establishment, more often than not, there is an inseparable amalgamation of ultra-radical religious preachers and terror outfits. This support for religious radicalism has made the country a hub terror financing for very long. Then there is virtually any stringent money laundering law in the country.
Several of the money laundering activities are directly connected with terror financing. The government, however, pretends that they are acting against terrorism by launching various military operations but their actions against financing of terror are never prioritised and pursued structurally.
The fact of the matter is, Pakistan continues to lack the adequate resources required to map, track or stop terror financing of organisations, such as Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other similar terror organisations operating worldwide. Hence, these outfits are using this opportunity to make Pakistan a hub for their financial transaction.
A major source of terror financing in Pakistan comes from proceeds of crime, hawala, illegal remittance, kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, extortion and proceeds of drug sales. The second most significant source is the siphoning off charities given by the Gulf countries to the NGOs.
Since the Ultra-radical religious groups are strong in Pakistan, the government had always avoided taking any action against them. Some immediate actions are taken under the pressure of international community but they are relaxed immediately after the matter is cooled down. Also, since it does not have the resource or legal provisions to do this and terror organisations know this, it becomes much easier for them to play the dirty game.
Ironically, over last so many decades, not only terrorist organisations but the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had been using these sources of terror finance to fuel terror activities in India. Imagine a situation where the government itself is involved in terror financing, it is impossible that they will act against such elements themselves.
If we study this financial mechanism, there are various terror financing channels operating between Pakistan and Afghanistan. These work openly in the disguise of charitable organisations and are protected by tribal laws. The primary responsibility of investigating them lies with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan which is not free from political rivalry and, hence, the onus ultimately comes on the local provincial police to plug these channels. However, the limited capabilities of local police in Pakistan to act against these very powerful and ruthless terror financing bodies have failed to bring an end to the practise.
We have several examples where even after major terror attacks, Pakistani authorities failed to track the terror financing related to the incident. Recently, on 23rd June 2017, a strong car bomb went off in a busy street in Quetta Pakistan, killing 14 people on the spot. Investigations reveal that cash payment was made for the car, bomb and logistics involved in the blast. Though the FIA conducted investigations to find out the perpetrators of this attack and blamed some terror organisations, no investigation was conducted to examine the source of funding by the concerned terrorist group.
Pakistan has established its first Financial Intelligence Unit (FMU) recently in 2007 but it has not been given adequate attention. As a result, the unit is still in its nascent stage and not able to perform to the expectations of the world. They lack staff, resources and, most importantly, a mandate to freely investigate the financial frauds.
Not only this, the first Anti- Money Laundering Ordinance of Pakistan was created in September 2007. Prior to it, there was no legal provision to control these kinds of activities. Surprisingly, the scope and range of offences under this act are still too narrow, which gives an easy escape route to any terror organisation or individual.
As far as role of Pakistan against Money Laundering and terror financing is concerned, they are bound to follow United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 which prescribes sanctions against Al-Qaeda and Taliban. However, Pakistan government had badly failed to act on the financial front because it has still not ratified the UN convention on the suppression of terrorism financing.
The main loophole in the Pakistani Anti Money Laundering law is that while there is a wide range of Pakistani acts criminalising terror financing, there is no criminalisation of individual terrorists or terrorist organisations other than the ones proscribed in the UNSCR 1267. Hence, the organisations kept changing their names and continue to run their activities.
We have the live examples how Lashkar-E-Taiba changed the names to Jamat-Ud-Dawa and then to other organisations and continued to run its huge terror financing budget of over 8 Million US $ to cause unrest in India.
So what does Pakistan needs to do to curb terror financing?
The first and foremost thing Pakistan must understand is that there is no good or bad terrorism. Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba/ Jaish-e-Mohammad are equally rogue groups and it needs to act against all of them with an iron fist.
The second thing required is establishing a concrete mechanism and empowering its FMU to investigate financial frauds and terror financing trails.
Furthermore, it needs to strengthen its laws to ensure more stringent examination and enforcement of practice. The cross-border transportation of currencies must be brought to a stop. It must also implement UNSCR 1373 to curb terror financing activities of all groups in addition to the ones prescribed in UNSCR 1267.
Lastly, the most important thing is a nationwide and political will in Pakistan to strictly act against radical Islamic organisations and all kinds of terror groups. If the actions are not taken immediately, the day is not far when our neighbour will figure at the top of the list of states which are seen as sponsoring terrorism, and join the league of North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria. It will be the worst nightmare for Pakistan as well as for India. Heaven knows as Pakistan's neighbour, India bears the worst burns of state-sponsored terrorist activities.