Facing severe pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, and calls from a number of countries to crack down on terror groups, especially after tensions with India, the Pakistan government on Monday passed an order to effectively ban Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) offshoots Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
Government sources in New Delhi, however, are sceptical about the move, given Pakistan’s attempts to ban these groups in the past, only to drop the ban over a period of time.
The Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) passed on March 4 says all “properties owned or controlled, wholly or partly, directly or indirectly, by a designated entity or designated individual” and any income from the assets including rent would be frozen or physically seized by the Pakistani authorities.
Islamabad said it will “streamline” the banning of groups that have been proscribed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and ensure that all entities banned by UNSC 1267 Committee in particular will have their assets frozen.
The JuD and FiF were listed by the UNSC as aliases for the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) that was banned in May 2005. However, Pakistan only had them on a watch list (Schedule-2) not the banned list (Schedule-1).
Both the LeT and the Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) are amongst the 68 organisations presently on the list of proscribed organisations maintained by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NATCA) of Pakistan.
Government sources in Delhi said the Pakistani decision was part of a “decade old fraud” by Islamabad, to pass SROs that are not prosecutable in courts and do not place any liability on the government authority that doesn’t implement the orders.
In February 2018, the Pakistani government had passed a similar order as a Presidential Ordinance, but then allowed it to lapse six months later.
At the FATF meeting in February 2019, Pakistan was censured for not having aligned its legislative orders in line with the UNSC’s orders. The group had subsequently decided on February 22 to keep Pakistan on its grey list, with the threat it could be moved to a black list later this year.
On February 21, even as the FATF meeting was proceeding in Paris, the Imran Khan government had passed an order banning the JuD and FiF, but the order is yet to be included in the NATCA’s latest listing that came out on Monday.
“The two groups were already under a watch list since January 2017. What was the announcement by Pakistan government of proscribing the two groups then? They have lied to FATF and this will be brought to the notice of the observers,” said a senior government official.
The latest order will affect JuD and FiF the most, although its remains to be seen if their activities will be curtailed in reality. The Daily Times of Pakistan reported on February 24 that the groups continue to operate with impunity in various parts of the country and in various places — the two organisations have re-branded themselves as Al Madina and Aisar Foundation.
In the wake of the tensions between India and Pakistan after the Balakot strike by the Indian Air Force, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has vowed “stern action” against all militant groups. Pakistani officials, quoted widely, have also indicated that Islamabad would not object to the impending UNSC listing decision on JeM chief Masood Azhar, believed to be responsible for the Pulwama attacks, which could mean China would not veto the listing as it has in the past.