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Islamabad: The recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) waiver to Pakistan was a huge relief for the capital, but the international organisation should keep up the pressure on the nation since it only takes symbolic measures to stop terrorism financing, according to South-South Research Initiative (SSRI).

It has been 14 years since terrorists supported by Pakistan attacked Mumbai. The proof showing Pakistan’s involvement in the three-day slaughter in Mumbai was plain to see. Over the past 14 years, Pakistan has chosen to disregard India’s requests to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice.

Additionally, it was able to escape with the international agreement that it has been sufficiently combating terrorism. It is appropriate to examine the current FATF waiver granted to Pakistan in this context, according to SSRI.

Pakistan has to go through a protracted review process to remove itself from the list. In June 2018, the FATF plenary assembly in Paris added the nation to its “grey list.”

Pakistan’s name was added to the list for the third time. Prior to February 2015, Pakistan’s name was taken off the FATF’s grey list, which was in effect from 2008 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2015.

It has two parallel action plans, according to the FATF President Raja Kumar, who announced the organization’s most recent decision to remove Pakistan from the list.

Islamabad may not accept that it is systemically supporting, but it uses the loopholes in the system to support terrorists who not only engage in terrorism within Pakistan but also expands their terror activities in other countries, such as India, as the glaring case being the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pathankot and Uri attacks in 2016 and Pulwama in 2019, reported SSRI.

No concerted action had ever been taken against those who were involved in and financed the terror attacks in Mumbai, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), leaders like Hafiz Saeed, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Sajid Mir.

This was first accepted by the government of Pakistan in February 2009, saying that Mumbai attacks were planned on its soil saying that “some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan” and six people were arrested in that regard, including Lakhvi.

However, Lakvhi was allowed bail in December 2014. The bail was granted because, according to the lawyer, the “evidence against Lakhvi was insufficient,” reported SSRI.

Lakhvi became a free man until he was again arrested in January 2021, only when Pakistan was pressurized by the FATF to act against terror financing.

After several years; and after being constantly pursued by the FATF, it was proven that he was involved in terror financing. “He, with some others engaged in collecting funds and utilised them to nurture terror financing” read the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department’s (CTD) statement.

In the case of the head of the LeT Hafiz Saeed, no action was taken, maybe because of the support Hafiz had received in the country.

Hafiz organised a protest in Islamabad in September 2013 using aggressive rhetoric against India after being accused of being a part of the Mumbai terror attacks, even though the US had already made a USD 10 million offer for information regarding Hafiz.

Pakistan finally started taking action against Hafiz in 2017 after a crackdown was initiated on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the LeT’s namesake. According to the DG ISPR, Hafiz Saeed’s home arrest was maintained as “a policy decision” that served Pakistan’s “national interest,” according to SSRI.

There was hardly any action taken against him despite the arrest. After a court denied the government’s request to extend the house detention, Hafiz was released from it.

Whatever the reasons given for his immediate release, the long-term reasons appeared to be ineptitude of the state mechanism to hold such people accountable for their actions. Or else, it was complicity shown from the system, reported SSRI.

If that was not the case, then why was Hafiz Saeed again arrested, soon after Pakistan was added in the FATF list? This time even evidence was found.

In July 2019, the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) did not only book Hafiz, but 13 of the JuD activists “for terror financing and money laundering”.

This time, being under pressure from the FATF to strengthen its laws against terror financing and money laundering, action was taken against Hafiz and others. An anti-terrorism court sentenced Hafiz Saeed of 33 years of cumulative imprisonment on April 9, 2022.

Some say that the decision was taken because Pakistan was not able to convince the FATF that it was working on the conditions laid down by the international body. When it was reeling under pressure or otherwise, the case of Hafiz, in which he was arrested earlier and released soon had sufficient proof that there is something abnormal in the system.

The hush-hush case of Sajid Majeed Mir tells more about the way such cases are being dealt with in Pakistan. Sajid was not arrested despite him being accused of directing the Mumbai Attacks, but finally he was taken in 2022 and that was also secretly. He was sentenced only in May 2022, even that was not made public.

Accordingly, it would be appropriate if the FATF kept up the pressure on Pakistan, knowing full well that this is a case of a country that is committed to keep up its romance with terrorism and use terrorism as a weapon of its policy toward the rest of the globe, according to SSRI.

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