Ahead of crucial FATF plenary meet from October 12-15, Pakistan arrests 4 top JuD/LeT leaders

Pakistan has again tried to fool the world with token gestures by arresting the ‘top four leaders’ of the banned LeT/JuD on charges of terrorism financing ahead of the Financial Action Task Force’s crucial plenary meeting scheduled to be held in Paris from October 12 to October 15.

This meeting is crucial for the terror state as a decision could be taken on Pakistan’s ‘grey-list’ status and whether there is a plausible reason to move towards putting the country under FATF blacklist.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has been keeping a close watch on the terror state of Pakistan, had recently declared that Pakistan has fared badly in the FATF-APG report card on money-laundering and terror-financing ahead of the annual meeting which is scheduled to be held in Paris between 13-18 October.

This observation might come as a major blow to the terror state which faces the threat of being placed on the FATF black-list. This fear has probably compelled Pakistan to orchestrate the arrest of these terrorists, whom it has been safeguarding for all this while.

The leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) arrested on Thursday have been identified as Professor Zafar Iqbal, Yahya Aziz, Muhammad Ashraf and Abdul Salam.

Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies believe that this move would put the “entire core leadership” of these outfits on trial.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) said that there had been an “important progress” in the National Action Plan (NAP) as the main leaders of proscribed organisation JuD/LeT have been arrested by the CTD Punjab in offences of terrorism financing.

“JuD/LeT chief Hafiz Saeed is already in prison facing trial for commission of offences of terrorism financing. Now the entire core leadership of the JuD/LeT will be on trial,” the CTD said, adding that the CTD Punjab has also been investigating offences of terrorism financing wherein these accused had built assets using the funds raised through terrorism funding.

This strategy adopted by the terror state of Pakistan is not new. In August 2019, Pakistan had made a similar attempt to mislead the FATF by registering fake FIRs against the terror groups that they have been safeguarding all this while.

Moreover, Pakistan has previously shown the arrest of LeT, JeM, JuD and FIF cadres in a bid to fool the FATF. However, they were not arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 but under its Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Act. Which meant that the detainees could only remain a maximum of 60 days in custody.

JeM founder Masood Azhar and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed have for the most part been arrested only for breach of peace and never prosecuted under anti-terror laws.

The mere arrest of terrorists does not satisfy the requirements of FATF. They ask for a freeze of funds, denial of access to weapons and travel embargo. They also want nations to impose penalties that are proportionate and dissuasive. Arrest under the MPO does not meet these requirements and hence it does not satisfy the FATF.

In June 2019, the terror finance watchdog FATF had observed that Pakistan had failed to fulfil 25 out of the 27 action points that were given to the terror state by FATF to keep a check on the funding of terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as well as frontal groups like Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).

In August, FATF’s major regional affiliate APG had blacklisted Pakistan for failing in over 35 of the 40 parameters.

Pakistan continues to be in the FATF Grey list which means that lenders like the IMF, the World Bank and the EU may continue downgrading Pakistan causing more financial woes for the already poorly performing economy. In the wake of the ongoing economic crisis, the Pakistan military had recently voluntarily trimmed down its defence budget.