Pakistan placed on global terror financing watchlist: foreign office

Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat is a radical Sunni group linked to violence against Pakistan's minority Shiite Muslims

Islamabad (AFP) – Pakistan has been placed on a global terror financing watchlist, its foreign office said Thursday, tainting its image ahead of a general election and as it touts dramatic improvements in security.

Members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an anti money-laundering watchdog based in Paris, voted earlier this year to place Pakistan on the list of countries that are not doing enough to combat terror financing.

It was given three months to make enough changes to avoid the listing. But on Thursday Dr Mohammad Faisal told reporters at a weekly briefing that the country has been grey-listed by FATF.

“Now after negotiation of an action plan, Pakistan will enforce that action plan, will implement it while remaining in the grey list,” he said.

“We have conveyed our concerns to them and they have told us theirs.”

The decision, which has not yet been announced by FATF, came as Pakistan removed the head of a hardline Sunni sectarian group from its terror watchlist. 

Hasan Askari, the caretaker chief minister of Punjab province, confirmed to AFP that Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, head of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), was removed from the watchlist by the previous government.

ASWJ is a radical Sunni group linked to violence against Pakistan’s minority Shiite Muslims.

Faisal minimised the impact of FATF’s decision, saying Pakistan has been on the list before. Pakistan was previously on the list from 2012 until 2015.

The original vote by FATF in February came as a bitter blow after Pakistan lost the support of allies China, which has invested billions in the country’s infrastructure but has a horror of Islamist militancy, and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security in recent years, but analysts have long warned that the country is not getting to the root causes of extremism.

Two diplomatic sources in Islamabad told AFP in February that Pakistan was targeted over its lack of action against Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and his charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).

JuD is believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people and brought Islamabad and Delhi to the brink of nuclear war.

Saeed, who operates freely in Pakistan and whose group is openly supporting several candidates in the July 25 election, has denied involvement.

“After unleashing Khadim Hussain Rizvi, mainstreaming Hafiz Saeed and the LeT, & decriminalising ASWJ, did anyone expect anything but confirmation of FATF grey listing?” tweeted prominent columnist Mosharraf Zaidi.

Rizvi is another hardline leader whose group held protests in Islamabad last year which resulted in the country’s law minister being ousted over blasphemy allegations.

FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to help combat money-laundering and financing for extremists.