by Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD (Dawn/ANN Desk) - Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain last Friday quietly promulgated an ordinance amending the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act with regards to proscription of terrorist individuals and organisations to include entities listed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in a move that would end a longstanding ambiguity over the status of Hafiz Saeed-linked Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) by firmly placing them on the list of proscribed groups.
The banned JuD head, Saeed, carries a bounty of US$10 million announced by the US for his role in terror activities. He had been under detention since January 2017, only to be released by a Pakistan court in November. Saeed is accused of materminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and his release came days short of the ninth anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.
The promulgation of the ordinance was made public on Monday.
The ordinance amends Sections 11-B and 11-EE of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (XXVII of 1997). Section 11-B sets out parameters for proscription of groups, whereas 11-EE describes the grounds for listing of individuals.
Both sections would now include Sub-Section ‘aa’, according to which organisations and individuals “listed under the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948 (XIV of 1948), or” will be included in the First Schedule (for organisations) and Fourth Schedule (for individuals), respectively, on an ex-parte basis.
Previously, the three conditions for such a proscription under Sections 11-B were: “(a) concerned in terrorism; or (b) owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by any individual or organisation proscribed under this Act; or (c) acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, any individual or organisation proscribed under this Act”.
Under Section 11-EE, the requirements were: “(a) concerned in terrorism; (b) an activist, office-bearer or an associate of an organisation kept under observation under section 11D or proscribed under section 11B; and (c) in any way concerned or suspected to be concerned with such organisation or affiliated with any group or organisation suspected to be involved in terrorism or sectarianism or acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, any person or organisation proscribed under this Act.”
A major impact of the new ordinance would be the proscription of Hafiz Saeed-linked JuD and FIF along with the UN listed outfits of Al Akhtar Trust and Al Rashid Trust.
The move, which ends an old discrepancy between the UN sanctions list and the national listing of terrorist groups and individuals, has come over a week before the crucial Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris, scheduled to be held from Feb 18 to 23. The US and India are spearheading an effort to get Pakistan included in the watchdog’s international money-laundering and terror-financing ‘grey list’.
Earlier on Feb 2, the National Security Committee (NSC) had directed the “ministries concerned to complete the few outstanding actions at the earliest”.
The country’s top civil-military coordination forum had reviewed the steps taken by the federal and provincial governments for compliance with FATF requirements in view of the upcoming FATF plenary meeting, which will take up a report to be submitted by Pakistan on actions taken to choke funding of Hafiz Saeed and the organisations linked with him.
The intergovernmental body had at its plenary in Buenos Aires held in the first week of November last year had asked Pakistan to furnish a compliance report on actions taken against Lashkar-e-Taiba and JuD at the Paris meeting.
A UNSC 1267 sanctions committee’s monitoring team visited Pakistan in January to review the compliance, but analysts fear that the FATF review could be tougher for the country. It is feared that the international body can take some punitive action against Pakistan.
The FATF maintains grey and black lists for identifying countries with weak measures to combat money laundering and terror financing. The watchdog does not have the powers to impose sanctions on a country found not meeting the required standards. However, its listing can affect international transactions from the country concerned as those would then become subject to greater scrutiny.
This will increase the cost of doing international/cross-border transactions and ultimately higher cost of doing business locally. Pakistan was last placed on FATF’s grey list in February 2012 and stayed on it for three years.