The price of prevarication

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The poultry is lining up to roost, the fox can sniff them and not all the chickens are going to make it into the henhouse in time. The fox is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the chickens are the offspring of successive governments that have prevaricated in respect of limiting the flow of funds to extremist and terrorist groups. We live in a time when increased transparency and accountability are high on international agendas, particularly regarding anything relating to security or the proliferation of terrorist groups and their facilitation.

Specifically, the threat of being blacklisted by the FATF has arisen because of a deficiency in the capacity to seize the properties of terrorist organisations. Pakistan has taken conflicting positions regarding this in meetings with FATF that have reviewed the legal assets of proscribed organisations. The competencies of those doing the negotiating with the FATF is questionable, a deficit that is becoming something of a running thread with the government as it moves on from its honeymoon days. The crunch will come in January 2019 when there are meetings with the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG). The task set for Pakistan was to come to compliance with 27 points contained in an agreed action plan, of which 10 points are to be delivered by January next year.

The government declares itself sanguine, and able to reach the ten goals in time, but the reality is that this is at best doubtful. Two action points relate directly to the issue of seizure of assets but this may require an amendment to the law if such seizure cannot be made under the UN Security Council Act of 1948. It may be necessary to promulgate an ordinance to achieve this as it lacks a majority in the upper house.

It is instructive to consider the organisations that are in the spotlight. The list includes includes Da’ish, Al Qaida, Falahi Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohmmad the Haqqani Network and anybody affiliated with the Taliban. Why this is instructive in this context is that at least one of those organisations, Jamat-ud-Dawa, is a very significant social sector provider of essential services. It has set up a complex, popular and effective network of health and education facilities nationwide which includes at least five hospitals, over 200 dispensaries, ambulance services, blood banks and about 300 schools. The JuD first response in the event of natural disasters has proved time and again to be faster than government agencies and services and arguably more effective, with a commitment to post-disaster follow-up. All this despite being a banned organisation.

The JuD control and own a large portfolio of social sector resources and the government finds itself between several rocks and any number of hard places. The JuD enjoys widespread grassroots support and is well funded. When the last government froze resources in January 2018 it immediately ran up against a capacity problem. The thousands of JuD employees and providers in theory and at a stroke were redundant, in practice they had to remain and continue to deliver or there would be gaps in service that had the potential to create social unrest.

This has received little coverage since but it presents a considerable hurdle. The JuD may be a banned organisation but one the government can ill-afford to lose the support of. That is unlikely to impress the ICRG and the FATF. A blacklisting by FATF in the next six months with potentially severe consequences remains a definite maybe, and the fox/chicken nexus both dark and fraught.