ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has frozen the accounts of 5,000 suspected militants, taking about USD 3 million out of their pockets, in a bid to avoid scrutiny at a crucial June meeting of an international watchdog that tracks terror financing.
Next month in Spain, the Financial Action Task Force will update its assessment of “high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions,” according to a report appearing in the Express Tribune.
The 35-nation intergovernmental organisation was formed in 1989 to combat money laundering.
After 9/11, it also took on the role of fighting the financing of terror. Getting on the task force’s “black list” could hurt a country’s ability to borrow.
In 2015, Pakistan was exempted from its scrutiny after a similar session applauded the country’s progress in tackling both money laundering and terror financing.
However, concerns have been raised by the resurrection of banned groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba now operating under new names.
Also, Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has begun the work of devising anti-terror financing policies, freezing bank accounts of known terrorist groups and identifying those that have resurfaced with different names, according to its director, Ishan Ghani.
Since taking over, Ghani has increased his staff to 100, gotten a budget of 1.8 billion rupees ($15.7 million) and is updating a list of individuals suspected of extremism. He also has devised a policy on which new, stricter laws can be enacted.
He said its current lists are outdated, with several suspected militants either dead or in jail, and the job of identifying individuals suspected of links to extremists rests with Pakistan’s four provinces.
The names have been slow in coming, Ghani added, blaming outdated systems, political foot-dragging and a lack of focus on counterterrorism despite military and police operations against suspected hideouts — particularly in Pakistan’s tribal regions that border Afghanistan.
Politicians have been reluctant to shut down some of the reconstituted militant groups because of the local support they enjoy and the votes they bring in. Other groups survive as their stated purpose is to wage war with India.
Ghani said that among the policies he is crafting is one to regulate cash transfers, a widely used practice in Pakistan. The policy will require anyone transferring 1 million rupees ($10,000) or more to identify the origins of the money.