Saturday, March 10, 2018

Business Recorder Editorial March 10, 2018

Mainstreaming proxies

Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) the presidential Ordinance promulgated in February 2018 amending the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 to allow proscription of terrorist individuals and organisations on the UN Security Council’s (UNSC’s) terrorist list. The Ordinance is believed to have particularly targeted the JuD and its welfare front Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) to stave off, in a last minute flurry, Pakistan being relegated to the grey list of the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This last minute effort, however, failed to keep Pakistan off the grey list. Now Pakistan has been given three months to prepare a plan to satisfy FATF that it has put in place a regime to prevent terrorist financing and money laundering. Hafiz Saeed has argued in the IHC that he had established JuD in 2002 after cutting off all ties with the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Despite that, and according to Hafiz Saeed on Indian pressure, he was detained in 2009 and 2017. The UNSC resolution against JuD forced the Pakistan government to put the organisation on its watchlist. The recently promulgated presidential Ordinance meant to target the JuD and FIF was, he argued, against the sovereignty of Pakistan and violative of fundamental rights. He pleaded for the Ordinance to be struck down. It may be recalled that Hafiz Saeed and the JuD have been accused of being the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks of 2008. Although the investigation process of those attacks has suffered delays and inconclusiveness because of the state of relations between Pakistan and India, the global community through the UNSC was persuaded to put the JuD and Hafiz Saeed on its terrorist list. Pakistan has, as usual, responded in reactive mode and that too much too late for its move to be credible or persuasive. The result is that Pakistan is now in the dock to convince FATF that it is taking credible steps against terrorist financing. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is supposed to have awoken from its deep slumber to put in place a plan in coordination with the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to choke off terrorist finance. Let us hope this effort will yield more positive results than the abortive coordination role envisaged for NACTA under the National Action Plan against terrorism. Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on March 8-9, 2018 that the confiscation of JuD and FIF’s assets after they were placed on the proscribed organisations’ list in line with the UNSC terrorist list was proceeding all over the country but still far from complete. The IHC has reversed the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) decision not to register the Milli Muslim League (MML), widely believed to be a creature of JuD, and asked the ECP to give the MML a hearing. Meanwhile the Lahore High Court (LHC) on March 7, 2018, extended the stay it had granted against the detention of Hafiz Saeed after the prosecution had failed to satisfy the court regarding the grounds for his detention.

These developments indicate that we have yet to learn the lessons regarding the unforeseen consequences of using proxies for projecting power and interests in our neighbourhood. The chickens of this long standing and ill thought through romance with proxies may finally be coming home to roost but the news has arrived very late in Islamabad and that too when the implications for our economy of being placed on FATF’s grey list finally sank in. Hafiz Saeed may be challenging the presidential Ordinance that has undone his handiwork to some extent through JuD and FIF, but our political class is too distracted to undertake the necessary step of parliamentary endorsement and passing of the Ordinance within 90 days of its promulgation, failing which it will lapse. Bogged down in the Senate elections and focused on the looming general elections, our elected representatives in parliament seem oblivious to the importance, nay criticality of this task. A lapse of the Ordinance, combined with our seeming inability to safeguard Pakistan’s interests against the activities of JuD, could land Pakistan in a lot of trouble with the global community acting in concert through the UNSC and FATF.

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