DECEPTION GAMES: PAKISTAN’S EYEWASH ACTION AGAINST TERROR GROUPS

Abstract

As yet another FATF deadline approaches in the last week of February, Pakistan is once again making a show of tightening its AML/CFT regimes to comply with the requirements of the financial watch-dog. At the same time, a propaganda effort is underway to convince the FATF to not only not push Pakistan into the ‘black list’ but to also take Pakistan out of the ‘grey list’. The facts on ground, however, merit Pakistan being ‘black-listed’ for failing to deliver on its high-level political commitments to FATF. Worse, Pakistan has been deceiving the Task Force by pretending to take action against internationally designated terrorist groups and their financial networks but only on paper. In practice, these terror groups continue to function openly and are collecting funds publicly.


The Road to FATF ‘Grey List’

In February 2015 the FATF declared that “Pakistan has established the legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF had identified in June 2010. Pakistan is therefore no longer subject to the FATF’s monitoring process under its on-going global AML/CFT compliance process.” But a year later, the US State Department’s country report on terrorism observed that in October 2016 “FATF noted concern among members that Pakistan’s outstanding gaps in the implementation of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime had not been resolved, and that UN-listed entities – including LeT and its branches – were not being effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s CFT laws, its freezing of several relevant bank accounts from March 2015 to March 2016, and other limited efforts to stem fundraising by LeT, the group and its wings continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds in the country in 2016. Pakistan’s ban on media coverage also did not appear to reduce the ability of LeT to collect donations (emphasis added).” This became the foundation for the subsequent ‘grey-listing’ of Pakistan in 2018. Since then, the modus operandi of Pakistan hasn’t changed. A lot of paper work is churned out to show Pakistan’s compliance with FATF recommendations and requirements and yet on ground nothing changes.

With pressure starting to mount, in January 2017, just a few weeks before the FATF session, Pakistan resorted to its old playbook and placed the UN designated terrorist, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and four of his associates under house arrest. Alongside, the Pakistan government put the JuD and its ‘welfare’ arm, Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF) on the watchlist and approved the freezing of assets, cancelation of passports and arms licenses. But even Pakistani analysts were quick to point out that this was just a cosmetic action, aimed to influence the deliberations of the FATF. In an article, the Pakistani academic Ayesha Siddiqa pointed out that “sealing the bank accounts or imposing travel ban on a few people didn’t mean anything because the LeT network continued to operate under other names or conducted its business as usual. No one even bothered to ask how the LeT subsidiary or sister organizations continued to transact money even in the name of welfare. How did FIF, a sister organization of JuD, provide millions of rupees worth of medical assistance to 1.9 million people in 2016, start 3,410 water projects in Thar and Balochistan, carry out 3,621 rescue operations throughout the country and much more? Given the vast expanse of welfare activities, one of JuD’s Twitter accounts was able to boast that, ‘in a country where politicians were busy money laundering, Hafiz Saeed was busy collecting donations for orphans, victims, patients’”.

By March 2017, the Pakistanis announced that they were tightening the rules to freeze and seize the assets of proscribed organisations. It was also claimed that over 4000 bank accounts had been frozen and around PKR 400 million (approx. $4 million) had been seized. A report compiled by Pakistan’s Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) accepted that terror financing was a serious problem and that over 200 terrorist organisations were generating billions of Rupees to fund their activities. This report was however classic Pakistani dissemble. Whenever the Pakistani state finds itself in a corner, it throws a bone to those hounding it to placate them, create some space and finally wriggle out of the tough spot. The bone in this case was the FMU report that, on the face of it, gave an impression that Pakistan was finally coming clean, accepting and recognising the risks of AML/CFT and starting to take necessary action. But to true to form, all this was nothing more than an eyewash. The problem for Pakistan was that the rest of the world had become wise to Pakistan’s shenanigans and wasn’t buying into Pakistan’s cosmetic actions anymore. In the words of the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, “How many times have we talked about the person [Hafiz Saeed] who Pakistan let out of house arrest, who was responsible for the Mumbai attacks back in 2008 that killed so many people, including Americans, too?”

In June 2017, FATF finally referred Pakistan to the APG and sought a report to address concerns that Pakistan was not fully complying with curbs against terrorist entities designated under the UNSC 1267 committee. This was followed in February 2018 with the US, along with its close European allies, proposing that Pakistan be placed on the FATF ‘grey list’ for failing to comply with FATF guidelines on AML/CFT. On the eve of the FATF meeting, Pakistan issued an official notification announcing the “freezing and taking over of assets (movable, immovable and human resource) associated with JuD and FIF”. An ordinance was issued amending the Anti-Terrorism Act to rein in individuals and organisations proscribed by the UNSC, which facilitated the action against the JuD and FiF. But a report in the Pakistani press exposed that on ground nothing had changed. According to this Reuters report, “at JuD’s Muridke headquarters, it was found the day-to-day management of the charity running largely as before. Only an administrator, two school principals and a doctor had been added by the government to the facility — previously known as Markaz-e-Taiba, now renamed Government Health and Education Complex Sheikhupura — where nearly 1,000 students take classes, a JuD official, Mohammad Athar, said. Five policemen had been added to the squad of 100 JuD security guards, while the rest of the staff were still working”.


Back in ‘Grey List’

With the die being cast, the FATF placed Pakistan in the ‘grey list’ in June 2018. Since that time, Pakistan has adopted a three pronged approach to get out of the FATF watchlist, and prevent itself from sliding into the ‘black list’. The first prong is passing a slew of laws, changed rules, regulations and procedures, made a show of acting against the UN proscribed individuals and organisations to fulfil its ‘high-level political commitment’. But has failed to convince the FATF which has found significant deficiencies in delivery on ground. In other words, while on paper, Pakistan’s actions appear impressive, in practice and on ground, virtually nothing changed. The second prong is Pakistan playing the victim card by trying to blame its predicament on India. Pakistan has accused India of politicising the FATF, a tack it has routinely adopted on the eve of every FATF or APG meeting.

The third prong of the Pakistani strategy has been to launch a propaganda offensive that aimed to pressure, even shame, the FATF to cut some slack for Pakistan. Stories have been planted in the Pakistani media claiming that Pakistan has fulfilled all the demands being made of it and was all set to be pulled out of the ‘grey list’. Pakistani officials also claimed that that “FATF team appeared convinced over the steps and measures taken by the authorities to combat terror financing and money laundering in line with the United Nations resolutions”. But all these done-to-death tactics fell flat. In October 2019, the FATF warned Pakistan to “complete its full action plan by February 2020. Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress not be made across the full range of its action plan by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action, which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their FIs to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan”.


The Deception Template

With the FATF sword hanging over Pakistan’s head, the Pakistanis realised their old playbook wasn’t working and needed to be tweaked. They had to do something more to deceive the world. In July 2019, the top leadership of JuD/FiF, including the chief Hafiz Saeed, his deputy Abdul Rehman Makki, Zafar Iqbal, Amir Hamza, were booked on terror finance charges in around two dozen cases. A week later, Saeed was arrested once again. Since the start of 2020, Pakistan once again made a big show of going after the JuD/FiF leadership. Not only were people convicted for being associated with JuD, but AML/CFT cases against leaders of the organisation moved into a higher gear. Pakistan had been given until February 2020 by FATF to deliver on its commitments. A few days before the FATF meeting in February 2020, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) handed down the first conviction to Hafiz Saeed and one of his associates Zafar Iqbal, sentencing them to five and half years on charges related to terror financing. A careful reading of the judgment reveals that the conviction was on grounds of being a member of a proscribed organisation and for possession of property that was used by such an organisation. On the more onerous charge of funding terrorism, the judge did not accept the prosecutions arguments.

Four months later in June 2020, another four leaders of JuD, including Makki (also a UN designated terrorist) were convicted for varying prison terms, but once again on watered down charges of money laundering, illegal fundraising and buying properties from raised funds. A couple of months later in August, Makki and another JuD leader Abdul Salam were released on bail by the Lahore High Court. Later in the same month, in yet another case, Zafar Iqbal and Abdul Salam were sentenced to sixteen and half years in jail while Makki was given a jail sentence of one and a half years. Just before the October 2020 FATF meeting, the Pakistan government informed its Senate that over 900 properties of JuD and nearly 60 properties of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) had been frozen. The action had been taken under a government order issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry to comply with the UNSC requirements. Another report revealed that “115 complaints on charges of money laundering worth Rs50 billion” had been filed by the Federal Board of Revenue to comply with FATF conditions. It seemed that Pakistan’s changed playbook was having some impact on the FATF which in October 2020 noted that “significant progress made on a number of action plan items”. But the FATF also warned that “as all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021”.

Shortly after the FATF meeting, the Pakistanis appeared to go into an overdrive against the JuD/FiF leaders. On November 5, 2020 Makki, Zafar Iqbal and Mohd. Ashraf were convicted. A week later Zafar Iqbal was convicted in another case along with the propaganda chief of JuD Yahya Mujahid for 16 years. The same day Makki was sentenced in another case for one year. The next week on November 19, an ATC convicted Hafiz Saeed, Mujahid, Zafar Iqbal and Makki in two cases and sentenced the first three for ten and half years each and Makki for 6 months. The very next day, Ashraf was sentenced to 6 years in jail. On the last day of November, Makki, Iqbal and Mujahid were indicted in two more cases. In December again, there were a spate of convictions of virtually the same four or five JuD leaders. On December 2, Iqbal and Mujahid got a fifteen and half year sentence each and Makki a 6 month jail. A day later, another ATA convicted Salam, Iqbal and Ashraf for fifteen and half years each and Makki once again for 6 months. On December 24, Hafiz Saeed, Ashraf, Mujahid, Salam and Iqbal were all convicted for fifteen and a half years and Makki yet again for 6 months. A couple of days later, a prayer leader was convicted for 25 years on charges of collecting money for JuD and forfeited his madrassa. The same court also convicted a man for 20 years for collecting funds for Al Qaeda. The convictions continued in 2021 when on January 18 an ATC convicted Iqbal and Mujahid for 14 years and Makki yet again for 6 months. A few days later, on January 22, Makki, Mujahid and Iqbal were each sentenced to 6 months in jail.

The most interesting case was however of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi who had been released on bail by the Pakistani judiciary in 2015. A terror finance case was been registered against Lakhvi on December 7, 2020. Around three weeks later on January 2, 2021 he was arrested. Within a week he was convicted on three charges of terror finance and his dispensary forfeited. Interestingly, on the eve of his arrest, Pakistan’s foreign ministry had approved his application for being allowed living expenses from his frozen accounts after receiving permission for the same from the UNSC.

The speed with which these cases are being decided, which is extremely unusual for a country like Pakistan, certainly raises a lot of questions about the seriousness and sincerity with which Pakistani authorities are proceeding against the terrorists, their financing and their organisations. The suspicions also arise because almost all the convictions are being done under a few clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), namely 11F to 11K. The trouble is that the judgments are not available in the public domain. It is therefore impossible to analyse the evidence that was presented or the arguments made by the prosecution to convince the court to convict the JuD terrorists. All that is available is that the notorious leaders of one of the world’s most deadly terrorist organisations are being convicted in one case after another. On the face of it looks like Pakistan is finally cleaning up its act. But often enough it has been seen that such judgments are passed with the connivance and concurrence of the accused and for reasons of expediency of affairs of state. In other words, with its back against the wall because of FATF pressure, Pakistan has taken the step to secure convictions against the terrorists which it thinks will help it get off the ‘grey list’. Once that happens, all these terrorists will appeal their sentences in the High Courts where each and every conviction will be set aside on pure legal grounds.

What this means is that the convictions have been done in a way that they will never stand the scrutiny of the higher judiciary. This is a sort of win-win for the terrorists and their patrons in the Pakistanis state, as well as the judiciary. The ATC judges will claim they convicted, the High Court judges will say they followed the law and over turned the convictions on purely legal grounds, and they will be right. The Pakistani state will have shown to the world their ‘intention’ to move against the terrorists but will plead helplessness in the face of a judicial setting aside of the convictions. And the terrorists will be happy to be set free (they aren’t really facing any of the hardship of prison anyway because most of them are either being kept in rest-houses converted into sub-jails or are in very comfortable quarters of the jails. And given that Pakistan will have got rid of the noose of FATF, it can go back to business as usual with its terrorist auxiliaries like JuD and JeM. At that stage, putting Pakistan back in the ‘grey-list’ will be easier said than done.

The modus operandi outlines above is exactly what has been followed in the case of the Al Qaeda terrorist Omar Sheikh who had been sentenced to death in the kidnapping and murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearl. The manner in which Omar Sheikh’s case was deliberately mishandled right from the beginning should have alerted everyone on how the case was being rigged to ensure it wouldn’t stand up in any court of law. However, after Sheikh was arrested, everyone assumed that justice would be served and took the eye of the ball. His conviction by a lower court was seen as proof that there was no way Sheikh would get away with murder. As a result, everyone ignored the sleight of hand right from the beginning when Sheikh was ‘arrested’. At that time, the chief of intelligence bureau, Ijaz Shah, who was Interior Minister when the appeal of Sheikh in Sindh High Court was in its last stages, played an extremely dubious role. Because of the enormous pressure and the high visibility of the Pearl case, Sheikh was sentenced. But the case was so weak – the prosecution couldn’t even prove in court that Pearl was indeed murdered because his body was never found and all there was a video showing his beheading – that the Sindh High Court was probably left with no choice accept to dilute the charges against Sheikh and release him. It took 18 years but Sheikh avoided the gallows. In the case of the JuD leaders, it will be not more than a few weeks, at best a few months, after Pakistan gets off the FATF ‘grey-list’ to get out of jail.

While much of the focus has been on the ‘crackdown’ on the JuD – this is quite natural considering that the entire FATF listing was predicated on this terrorist organisation operating without any let or hindrance in Pakistan – there has been virtually no action taken against an equally dangerous and deadly organisation – Jaish-e-Mohammad. It was only in January 2021 that the news of an ATC in Gujranwala had issued arrest warrants against the JeM chief Masood Azhar, who was designated as a terrorist by the UNSC in 2019. Strangely enough, the news was virtually blacked out in the Pakistani media. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that in recent years the JeM has been deployed much more by the Pakistani state for purposes of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy than the JuD which has become damaged goods. The JeM footprint is not just enlarging in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) but is also useful in reaching out to Punjabi Taliban as well as strengthening the compact with the Afghan Taliban.

With Masood Azhar also the Pakistani state has followed the same template that it used for the JuD – when the heat becomes unbearable some cosmetic action is taken which is quickly overturned the moment the pressure eases up. In 2016, after the terrorist attack on the India airbase in Pathankot, the Pakistanis assured India of prosecuting the perpetrators. An FIR was filed (copy attached below) but Azhar wasn’t nominated in it. Meanwhile, to assuage the outrage in India, reports were published that Azhar, his brother and the virtual operations commander of JeM, Rauf, had both been detained and their offices sealed. The same reports suggested that a wider crackdown was in the offing. Of course, no such thing happened. Three years later, another terrorist attack by the JeM, this time a suicide bombing of a bus carrying security personnel in Pulwama in J&K killing over 40 of them, brought the two countries to the brink of war. Once again there was tremendous pressure on Pakistan to take action against Azhar. But Pakistan’s resorted with its characteristic dissemble with the foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi speaking with a forked tongue – first saying that Azhar was extremely unwell and hospitalised and then later accepting that the government was in contact with the JeM leadership and it had denied any involvement in the Pulwama attack. There is therefore as yet no evidence that the Pakistani authorities are planning any action, not even cosmetic, against Azhar and his cohort.


Business as Usual

Even if the Pakistani authorities were acting against Azhar, or seen to be acting against Azhar and JeM, it wouldn’t have cramped the style or functioning, or even the finances, of the terror group. Going by the activities of the top leadership of JuD, it is quite clear that the so-called crackdown and convictions haven’t in the least impacted on the organisation. A perfunctory monitoring of social media handles of associates, members and leaders of JuD and FiF reveals that the organisation remains not only active but is also able to collect/generate enough funds for the same. What is more, these activities were being organised all across Punjab. Surely, if the Pakistan government was indeed putting the JuD out of business, these activities wouldn’t have been possible. In December 2020, by which time the top dozen odd leaders of JuD had cases filed against them and been convicted and sentenced multiple times, the organisation should have been struggling to stay alive. And yet, not only was it managing to survive, but also thrive.

On December 30, 2020, the JuD organised a conference at Markazi Jamia Masjid Ahl-e-Hadith in Jhang, on Dec. 30th, 2020. The banner announcing the conference declared that it would be be addressed, among others, by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)- Okara Central Leader Maulana Bin Yamin Abid.

On the same day, a Seerat-Ul-Nabi Conference was organized at Jamia Masjid Muhammadi Ahl-e-Hadith in Faisalabad district which was attended by Maulana Manzoor Ahmad of Gujranwala, who is a central l of JuD and by Qari Muhammad Yasin Baloch of Okara. The banner announcing the conference is appended below:

Another Seerat-un-Nabi conference was organised on January 12, 2021 in Kasur district of Punjab where the same Maulana Manzoor Ahmad was the chief guest.

On January 17, 2021, a ‘course in Quran’ was organised in a mosque in Johar Town, Lahore which was addressed by none other than Qari Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh who is not only an specially designated terrorist by the US State Depaertment but is also known for being one of the fund raisers and financiers of the JuD. Yaqoob has also been a candidate of the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political arm of the JuD.

According to another social media post, Qari Yaqoob is also scheduled to attend a ‘Dars-e-Quran-wa-Hadees’ event in Sheikhupura on February 1, 2021.

Another social media post has announced a grand event on February 16, 2021, in Okara where the aforementioned Manzoor Ahmad would deliver the Friday sermon. The grand event would of course require funds, which are technically prohibited by the UNSC as well as under Pakistan’s commitments to FATF. And yet the banner boldly declares that “Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein”, alluding to the operations of the JuD terrorists in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Another leader of JuD, Amir Hamza, who is also a designated terrorist by the Americans is openly delivering Khutbas (Friday sermons) in Punjab province.

Similarly, Talha Saeed, who is the son of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and himself designated as a terrorist by the US Treasury department has also been very active.

Then there is Khalid Saifullah, who is the president of the MML and a top JuD leader, who has continued to address congregations in mosques and deliver Friday sermons.

The FiF chief Hafiz Abdur Rauf has also remained active throughout the crackdown. The irony is that FiF is one of the primary organs of JuD that receives proscribed funding, and yet Rauf has remained free all along. Worse, he has been delivering sermons and carrying out his other activities.

As is clear from the following snapshots, not only have the JuD leaders continued with their public programmes, the organisation has also been raising funds quite openly despite the FATF requirements that prohibit all such funding. Seminaries linked to the JuD have been soliciting funds on social media, especially at the time of Eid where they have donates of PKR 12000 for cows and PKR 18000 for camels which can then be slaughtered and their meat distributed to the community.

The solicitation of funds for Eid sacrifice is only a small part of the story, rather the deception that Pakistan has unleashed. The vast education network run by JuD has continued unmolested.

Social media posts have also revealed that JuD offices like the Markaz Al Quds in Lahore have been able to raise the necessary funds to meet their monthly expenses of close to PKR 200000.

There are also reports of meetings between top JuD leaders and businessmen in different cities where the latter were asked to donate money for the ‘mujahideen’ who have been waging jihad in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bottom line is that even as Pakistan makes a big show of the steps taken against the JuD, the organisation, its activities and its finances have continued like nothing has happened. If at all something has happened, it is that the Pakistani media can no longer report on groups like the JuD and that now much of the organisation and funding is solicited through the social media, often in ways that makes it difficult to link the financiers and financing modes to the organisation or its leaders.

The JuD, despite all the show of facing a crackdown, has been able to function and finance itself. The JeM which faces none of the visible constraints being faced by the JuD, is even more open and brazen about its operations and funding, as also its activities, and has been advertising on social media to attract recruits, funding, offer terrorism training courses, and of course the Islamic teachings.

A top JeM commander Mufti Mehmood Ilyas Kashmiri, who carries the nom-de-plume of ‘Jarnail (General) Kashmir’, addressed a conference in Rawalakot area of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and made a fiery, even provocative, speech challenging the ‘enemies of Islam’. He also spewed bile against the Shia community and its protectors. This entire address was later posted on social media on December 28, 2020.

The JeM has also been openly advertising, including through social media posts, jihadist training in its camps in Bahawalpur and other parts of Pakistan.

The JeM also appended a small note exhorting the prospective recruits/ participants to join these modules to understand the life of a mujahid. The note is clearly aimed at students because it says that the winter vacations can be utilised productively by benefiting from these 7-day modules. The note goes on to say that after completing the module, the participants will not hate the mujahids, but instead remember them in their prayers, and bless the mujahids for saving them from the troubles that would otherwise befall them.

Since early 2020, there have been reports that the JeM was shifting its operations (training camps, etc.) to the borderlands straddling the Durand Line that forms the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has been an old ploy of the Pakistani state as it gives them a degree of plausible deniability. But what can be gleaned from social media posts of the JeM and its associates, the terror group continues to operate with impunity in the so-called mainland Pakistan. In anything, the JeM has been regularly holding refresher courses, training programmes and indoctrination modules for its cadres and other people inclined to join the terror organisation. Such programmes were carried out not just in the Tribal Badlands along the Afghan border but all over Pakistan in cities like Karachi, Quetta, Mansehra, Peshawar etc. Similar programmes have also been conducted at the district level to keep the cadre and supporters connected and motivated.

On the face of it, many of the programmes being organised by the JeM can be explained away as nothing more than religious activity. But behind the display of religiosity lies the sinister agenda of the JeM – Jihadist terrorism. For instance, when the JeM organises an oratory competition titled “Masjid aur Jihad” (mosque and jihad), it is clear what the objective of such a competition is. Such competitions have been organised by the JeM student wing in Peshawar on October 29, 2020.

Similar events were organised by Talba al Murabitoon (the JeM student wing) in the capital city Islamabad, in Lahore the as well as in Rawalakot in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in November 2020.

But it is not just these oratory or speech competitions aimed at brainwashing young minds to join or support the JeM. Even more brazen is the issuing of jihadist training schedules in various JeM camps spread across the country in 2021.

Even as Pakistan has been making a big show of how it is cracking down on terrorist financing and tightening its regulatory mechanisms to ensure that internationally designated jihadist terror groups like the JuD and JeM are unable to function, the JeM has actually managed to double its fund collection over the last year. The JeM has been publicly asking for donations during Eid to make the ritual sacrifice for families of ‘martyrs’ (jihadist terrorists killed during operations), or those arrested for indulging in terrorism. What is more, the JeM has also been soliciting cash donations instead of animal hides because of the crash in price of these hides in 2020 as a result of the pressure of FATF.

As far as funding goes, the JeM has started a campaign to build 313 mosques and claims that is has already managed to build 93 mosques. The number 313 is symbolically important as it denotes the number of fighters who fought in the Battle of Badr during the time of the Prophet. The battle is supposed to have been critical to the rise and spread of Islam. Jihadist groups have even set up terror organisations called 313 Brigade. The 313 mosque building campaign of JeM clearly indicates that the organisation is able to collect funds and use them despite all Pakistani assurances and commitments to the FATF. Given below is a call for donating for the 314 mosque campaign.

An even more egregious violation of the ‘high level political commitments’ made by Pakistan to the FATF is the JeM openly collecting funds for equipping the ‘mujahideen’. This solicitation for funds was issued on social media on November 15, 2020.

Conclusion

Quite clearly, all the frenetic activity being undertaken by Pakistan to conform and comply with FATF recommendations is nothing more than an eyewash. The legal and regulatory changes, the convictions and sentencing of JuD leaders, the curbs placed on fund collection by terror groups, are all only on paper. At best they have had an impact on the margins. But in substantive terms, neither have the terror organisations been disbanded and made defunct, nor has there been a strangulation of their funding. The cases against and conviction of top JuD leaders has not stopped the activities of the terror group. Even the top leaders are incarcerated only in name. They are able to meet and communicate with their cadres and associates and even direct the operations and take care of the administrative issues of their group. In the case of JeM, there isn’t even the elaborate pretence of taking action, as is happening in the case for JuD.

For the FATF to claim that Pakistan has made ‘significant progress on a number of action plan items’ is to ignore the fact that on ground it is pretty much business as usual. By FATF’s own standards, the actions taken by Pakistan are neither credible, nor irreversible, and they are certainly not sustainable. Most of all, nothing that Pakistan has done can be remotely described as ‘dissuasive actions’ because the terror groups these actions were supposed to dissuade certainly show no signs of being dissuaded. Therefore, to allow Pakistan off the hook simply on the basis of actions on paper or the deception of convictions would tantamount to undermining the very purpose of FATF which is to curb terror finance and money laundering. It is not enough to ask countries subjected to enhanced monitoring to just tick the boxes without ensuring that the impact is visible on ground. To do that is to accept subterfuge and make deceit and dissemble acceptable.