In a move to avoid giving India an upper hand in the upcoming meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is an international organisation to keep a check on a country’s activities like terror financing and black marketing, Pakistani Government has ordered three months detention for Omar Saeed Sheikh after a Pakistani high court acquitted him of the charges.
Omar Saeed has recently seen his death sentence overturned by the Sindh High Court in Pakistan. The high court had not only struck down the murder charges, but also commuted his sentence to 7 years in prison which has already been served, thus making him a free man.
Omar Saeed and three others had been serving in prison since 2002 in the case of kidnapping and murdering a US journalist, Daniel Pearl, a correspondent for The Wall Streets Journal who was investigating the ongoing terrorist activities in Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks in USA.
A British born and alumnus of the London School of Economics, Omar Saeed boasts of a glorious reputation in the field of terrorism. He, along with Masood Azhar, and Mushtaq Zargar, was released by India in 1999 after a flight IC-814 carrying 155 passengers was hijacked. He is supposed to have strong connections with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Pakistan scrambled under pressure and detained Saeed as it realised that India, which is already pushing hard to get Pakistan into the ‘blacklist’ of FATF, would definitely raise this issue on the forum’s table in June.
Pakistan is already under FATF’s ‘grey list’ and has received a stern warning for strict actions from the other members of the forum in February.
Earlier in 2018, Pakistan was put under the FATF ‘greylist’ after not being able to effectively curb terror funding in the country. It was given the deadline till September 2019 to complete some tasks, which included shutting down funding to terrorist groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and tightening laws and banking security norms which deal with them.
Pakistan was judged to complete only four of the tasks given to them in November 2019. Giving Pakistan another chance, the FATF extended the deadline till February 2020, and asked the country to “swiftly” complete the tasks.
Subsequently, in the recent meeting of the FATF in Paris in February, when Pakistan's inaction towards cutting down on terror funding was again discussed, it was noted that even after an aged timeline, the Pakistani Government had not been effective in completing the action plan set out for it by the FATF previously. The FATF summary report included that Pakistan needed to continue working on few specific areas, including demonstrating that it is “identifying and investigating” all terror financing activity in the country, freezing the funds of all designated terrorists, and its prosecutions resulting in “effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions” against all terror entities in Pakistan.
Out of 27, Pakistan is yet to fulfil 13 recommendations of FATF. It is highly unlikely that it will manage to get out of grey list which requires the support of 12 members.
It will be a sight to behold if Pakistan joins Iran and North Korea in FATF blacklist though it is not probable, because China, Malaysia, and Turkey openly back Islamabad, and according to the rules, support of three members is enough to escape from getting blacklisted.
FATF or the Financial Action Task Force is an independent inter-governmental body which seeks to safeguard the global financing system so that it cannot be used by terrorist and anti-social elements.
The organisation recognises two sets of countries through the documents it releases every year.
The first set includes countries which are to be “black-listed” (the FATF does not use it as official terminology) which is for “countries or jurisdictions with such serious strategic deficiencies that the FATF calls on its members and non-members to apply counter-measures.” The second set consists of the countries in the “grey-list”, which identifies nations with “strategic weaknesses” to curb money laundering and terror financing, but get a second chance as they have shown diligence in sticking with the action plan devised by the FATF. For the second category countries, “FATF calls on its members to apply enhanced due diligence measures proportionate to the risks arising from the deficiencies associated with the country.”
‘Blacklist’ and ‘Greylist’ are the terms used in media which FATF officially describes as “High-risk jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action” and “Other monitored jurisdictions” respectively.
Currently, only two countries are on this “black-list” of the FATF, namely Iran and North Korea.
Till Pakistan is in the Grey-list, it will continue to face trouble in receiving financial aid from the likes of IMF, World Bank, European Union, and Asian Development Bank which can have a detrimental effect on the already-sinking economy of Pakistan.