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US: Pakistan Should Continue Ban on Terror-linked Charity Groups

Washington is criticizing Pakistan for ending a ban on two Islamic charity organizations the United States has designated as terrorist groups.

The expiration of the ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) runs counter to Pakistan’s commitment to work with global terror watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a U.S. official told VOA.

“The United States is deeply concerned that this development will jeopardize Pakistan’s ability to meet its commitments under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267 to freeze and prevent the raising and moving of funds belonging to or associated with U.N.-designated terrorist groups,” according to a U.S. State Department spokesman.

Washington is urging Pakistan to pass legislation that formally proscribes JuD and FIF.

Last week, Pakistan admitted that JuD and FIF, headed by Islamist cleric Hafiz Saeed, are no longer banned after the expiration of a presidential ordinance that blacklisted them under a U.N. resolution.

Raja Khalid Mehmood Khan, Pakistan’s deputy attorney general, said Thursday during a court hearing in Islamabad that the presidential ordinance that blacklisted JuD and FIF has not been renewed by the government or ratified into law.

Pakistan Militant Leader
FILE – Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, second from left, head of the Pakistani religious party, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, kiss his hands as he arrived at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2017.

According to Pakistan’s constitution, any presidential amendment needs to be turned into law or renewed by the parliament within four months of its issuance.

In February 2018, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain signed an amendment to the country’s antiterrorism law that allowed the state to ban charities linked to Saeed.

Before the amendment, organizations sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council were not automatically listed as terrorist entities in Pakistan.

Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160 people, including six Americans, filed a petition and called the amendment to the country’s antiterrorism law unconstitutional. He lives freely in Pakistan’s capital, Lahore, despite having a $10 million U.S. bounty on him since 2012.

Front organizations

Last month, Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) issued a list of 66 banned organizations that did not include JuD or FIF, even though Pakistani officials say that both JuD and FIF are “under watch by the Ministry of Interior.”

Saeed’s original Lashar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which was formed in the 1980s to liberate Indian-administered Kashmir and merge it with Pakistan, was designated a terrorist outfit by the U.S., the United Nations, Britain, Russia and the European Union.

Saeed has evaded a ban in Pakistan on LeT by creating multiple other organizations, including JuD and FIF, that critics say are merely fronts.

JuD and FIF allegedly manage a large charity network with the help of thousands of volunteers. The groups manage more than 300 religious seminaries, schools, hospitals and ambulance networks. Over the years, they have managed to gain influence throughout the country.

Pakistan’s ‘Name Game’ Gives Terror Groups a Pass

Some analysts in Pakistan voiced concerns over the government’s recent decision to let the ban on JuD and FIF lapse and exclude them from the list of outlawed terror groups.

Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and security analyst, says this undermines Pakistan’s claims to be targeting terror groups operating in the country.

“The lapse of the presidential amendment means more international pressure as to why Pakistan is not able to crack down and ban organizations placed on the U.N.’s terror watch list,” Masood told VOA. “The FATF team was here last week and expressed dissatisfaction over Pakistan’s insufficient measures against terror financing and urged the country to address inadequacies in the supervision of nonprofit and charitable organizations.”

Gray list

In June, the FATF placed Pakistan on its gray list for the country’s inadequate measures to curb terror financing and money laundering.

Regional experts from India and Afghanistan believe the development will further undermine Pakistan’s claim to be tough on militants.

Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, an Indian security affairs analyst, told VOA that the news did not surprise experts in India, despite renewed hopes that the new Pakistani government would bring tougher enforcement.

“It’s not a surprise that Pakistan has not been able to take a firm decision about Hafiz Saeed, but there was a hope that Mr. Imran Khan might be able to handle this differently,” Bhaskar said. “But my sense as an analyst is that while this is not surprising, there will be a lot of disappointment that definitely could impact the bilateral relationship,” he added.

Abdul Qadir Zazai, an Afghan parliamentarian, echoed Bhaskar’s concerns and added that Pakistan’s government needs to take a firm stance against all terror groups.

“We strongly condemn this measure, and hope and call on Pakistan’s civilian government to prevent and stop those who call for jihad in Afghanistan and who train and send terrorists to Afghanistan,” he told VOA.

VOA’s William Gallo, Mohammad Habibzada and Jaleel Akhtar contributed to this report from Washington.

This story was originally posted on VOA News (Extremism Watch Desk).

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