Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pakistan’s effort to end terrorist financing remains uneven: US

Anwar Iqbal

As the new government in Islamabad starts work on addressing the concerns related to money laundering and terror financing, a US State Department report released on Thursday said that Pakistan criminalised terrorist financing through the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), but its implementation remained uneven.
Pakistan is a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering — a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In June, the Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on its grey list of countries that could be marked out for economic sanctions if they failed to prevent terrorists from collecting funds within their domain.
The official US report — released with the State Department’s country reports on terrorism — also highlights FATF’s concerns about Pakistan.
“The FATF continued to note concern that Pakistan’s outstanding gaps in the implementation of the UN Security Council ISIL (Daesh) and Al Qaida sanctions regime have not been resolved, and that UN-listed entities — including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its affiliates — were not effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan, nor being denied financial services,” the report points out.
Washington claims progress on efforts to implement UN sanctions related to designated entities is slow
Last month, Finance Minister Asad Umar told the Senate that FATF had given Pakistan 15 months to comply with these requirements. The minister said FATF had identified 27 deficiencies in the Pakistani financial system, including “currency smuggling, hawala and terror financing of proscribed organisations”.
The minister had told the house that the government would be addressing all the objections raised not only to satisfy the international community but also because it was in Pakistan’s own interest to get rid of terror financing and terrorism.
The US State Department in its report acknowledged that Pakistan’s laws technically comply with international anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism standards, but added that Pakistani authorities “failed to uniformly implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and individuals such as LeT and its affiliates, which continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds”.
The report also refers to a Nov 2017 decision of the Lahore High Court which refused to extend the detention of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed as it judged the government had not provided sufficient evidence against him nor had it charged Hafiz Saeed with a crime.
The US report also examines the National Action Plan that the PML-N government gave to FATF in June this year, noting that the plan contains efforts to prevent and counter terrorist financing, including by enhancing interagency coordination.
The law designates the use of unlicensed hundi and hawala systems as predicate offences to terrorism and also requires banks to report suspicious transactions to Pakistan’s financial intelligence unit, the State Bank’s Financial Monitoring Unit.
The US State Department, however, notes that throughout 2017 “these unlicensed money transfer systems persisted throughout the country and were open to abuse by terrorist financiers operating in the cross-border area”.
Reviewing Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism, the report notes that Pakistan continued to experience significant terrorist threats in 2017, although the number of attacks and casualties decreased from previous years.
The report also identifies several major terrorist groups focused on conducting attacks in Pakistan, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, and the sectarian group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami.
The report also mentions groups located in Pakistan, but focused on conducting attacks outside the country, included the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
The reports notes that in 2017, the terrorists used a range of tactics — stationary and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, and rocket-propelled grenades — to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions and places of worship.
The report also notes that the Pakistani government and military continued high-profile efforts to disrupt terrorist attacks and eliminate anti-state militants. “Progress, however, remained slow on the government’s efforts to implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and enforce anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls.”
The State Department also said that the Pakistani government pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but “did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan”.
The government, the report added, also failed to “significantly limit” LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting and training in Pakistan — although the Elections Commission of Pakistan refused to allow a LeT-affiliated group to register as a political party.

Pakistan is Russia's New Best Friend

By Michael Peck
Russia has already sold attack helicopters to Pakistan, signed a military cooperation pact to train Pakistani officers, and held joint training exercises. More is coming.
If Rudyard Kipling met Vladimir Putin, he’d have a stern word for that unsportsmanlike Russian chap.
How dare he put his hands on Pakistan! Doesn’t he know the rules of the “Great Game” of the late nineteenth century, when Britain feared that Russian armies would advance out of Central Asia to overrun British-controlled India (which then included modern-day Pakistan)? But the rules have changed. India, once a Russian ally, is buying weapons from America. And Pakistan, once America’s Cold War ally against the Soviet Union, is becoming cozy with Russia. Russia has already sold attack helicopters to Pakistan, signed a military cooperation pact to train Pakistani officers, and held joint training exercises .
“That Pakistan’s army sees Russia as an ally in Afghanistan and Central Asia is a complete turnaround from 200 years of fearing and indeed fighting the ‘bear’ from across the River Oxus,” says Kamal Alam, a visiting scholar at the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank.
While Western attention has focused on China building transportation routes through Pakistan as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road economic sphere, Pakistan and Russia have quietly allied to support the Taliban, which is battling the American-supported Afghan government. “Both countries now feel that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is a threat to their security,” Alam writes in a RUSI study . All of which would have Kipling turning over in his “bloomin’ grave.” Even after independence from Britain in 1947, the Pakistani army had continued the British Raj’s policy of maintaining a buffer zone of autonomous Pashtun tribes between Pakistan and an Afghanistan where Russia had a strong influence. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in 1979, and the Carter administration feared Soviet tanks would seize the Persian Gulf oil fields, Pakistan became the conduit through which America supplied arms to the Afghan rebels. For its part, America tended to back Pakistan against its arch-rival India, including arms and even dispatching an aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
So what happened? The Pakistani army has decided “the policy of having a buffer zone with Afghanistan is no longer required as the Russians are no longer a threat to Afghanistan, and by default Pakistan,” writes Alam. Meanwhile, Russia launched a “charm offensive” as far back as 2002, when President Putin offered to mediate Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir. Now, Russia is adroitly taking advantage of the Trump administration’s hardline policy toward Pakistan, including cuts in military aid and suspending training of Pakistani officers, with the training suspension particularly wounding the Pakistani military’s pride. Alam also believes that “Russia’s performance in Syria is seen as a victory in Pakistan, hence shifting gears to the victor,” Alam told the National Interest. Yet as for Russian bases in Pakistan similar to those in Syria, Alam thinks that is unlikely. “I do not see any Russian bases any time soon, if at all. Pakistan has had a negative impact hosting several U.S. bases in the early days of the War on Terror.” Nor does he see a Russo-Chinese rivalry to woo Pakistan. “I think at the moment there is Sino-Russian cooperation over Pakistan as this makes it harder for the U.S. both in South Asia and Central Asia,” he told TNI. “At the same time, growing Pakistan ties with Iran also helps Russia and China regionally with regards to challenging the U.S.”
However, as Kipling wrote, "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." For now, the Russo-Pakistani alliance can only be a marriage of convenience. "Pakistanis are culturally Western because of the British legacy, English language, school system, etc.," Alam says. "So the Russian alliance is not natural. It will take a long time if at all to replace the UK and U.S. as cultural hegemons in urban elites."
As for what the United States can do, America “just has to keep a balance in the Afghan-Pakistan-India nexus. At the moment, from Pakistan’s point of view, the U.S. is singing from the Afghan and Indian book and isolating Pakistan. If the U.S. opens up more and stops military blockade in terms of sale, all shall be well again.”

Pakistan a Conflicted Country: Many Problems few Solutions

I watch some channels of Pakistani News to get to know what is happening there and the scary thing is no one really knows. As in the recent case of Pakistani Economist Atif Mian, who is considered one of 25 best in the world. Imran Khan brought him in with much fanfare and when social media and Mullahs objected at first because he is an Ahmadi, and Pakistan does not recognize this sect as Muslim, Imran’s Information minister went on TV with a splendid defense as to how he was the best to help lead the country out of its economic woes and that he would advise on economics, not religion.
But this proved to be not enough for the Mullahs and there was so much outrage and dire threats of anarchy in the country that Atif Mian had to resign and go back to Princeton. Two other Pakistani Economists who were professors abroad, in Harvard and Britain also resigned and left in disgust.
It seems that Pakistan takes a step forward and two steps backwards every time. Conflicted by debates on good Muslim and bad Muslim; good terrorists and bad terrorists; democracy versus martial law; The Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor being very good for the nation or very bad; mullahs screaming about the plight of Rohingyas but strangely silent on the one million Uyghurs imprisoned by the Chinese and the brutality they suffer on a daily basis.
When economists and rational anchors on TV question this the generals say Pakistan can never be defeated as it has the bomb! As if nukes can be turned into dams for the acute shortage of water; or schools for education or medical centres for the poor. It is almost as if a large portion of the society is living in a time warp where they feel that since they follow Islam, Allah will save them but they don’t have to do anything much themselves.
I saw a debate between Mullahs, each one trying to outdo the other on rigidity. The anchor asked them why are you against Ahmadis, aren’t they human beings and Muslims. The Mullahs erupted and said we would rather deal with Hindus and Christians than Ahmadis – they don’t accept Mohammed as the last prophet. Yet one will hardly ever find Christians and Hindus in high positions in Pakistan, whether it be the Armed Forces; the Judiciary; or government. Even in schools, the children get to learn how hated their neighbour is.
Such is the radicalization that is being taught in mosques; madrassas; schools and believed by generations of Pakistanis that it seems impossible to reverse.
On YouTube, I heard Pakistan’s best -known nuclear Physicist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy give a speech in the US, and his words seemed to describe the change Pakistan has undergone. He said when he grew up in Karachi in the 1950s they lived in a neighbourhood where there were Christians, Parsees and some Hindus. Now when he goes there the diversity is gone there are only Muslims. When he came back to Pakistan after his PhD in the US, and started teaching at a University in Pakistan, the students dressed casually just like anywhere else. But by the 1990s the girls started wearing niqabs and burkhas and young men became equally religious.
One of the saddest events at this prestigious university was when one night he heard shots and when he rushed out he found the Professor who was his neighbour, an Ahmadi, had been shot in his head and chest. He died while Dr Hoodbhoy was taking him to hospital. This was in the university compound where all the professors lived. The next day at his funeral none of his colleagues came and only Professor Hoodbhoy was there.
I found this sad as well as frightening. If the best educated treat their fellowmen like this in a nation, what hope is there for the average person?
I have seen debates between students of physics who want to know how can they acknowledge the Big Bang Theory and evolution when the Koran does not talk about it. It seems they cannot compartmentalize religious belief and science. Somehow the two have to gel.
We had visited Spain in May and our Pakistani taxi driver was envious when we said we came from India. He told us the Indians here have the best jobs. They have businesses; work in banks and in IT and are very well off. We from Pakistan can only be taxi drivers, our education system is poor.
There seems to be a great frustration building up and the religious right are fighting for the establishment of a pure Islamic state and at the same time the rule of law is disintegrating; water and electricity is in short supply; Pakistani exports cannot compete with other neighbouring countries; they need $12 billion just to pay off debts; madrassas proliferate; and the youth have no skills or jobs. And yet the Military Industrial Empire thrives. It is not accountable to anyone and its terror proxies continue to operate in Afghanistan and India.
It will be interesting to watch if China can change Pakistan or if CPEC will eventually be China’s Waterloo. For the moment the terror proxies are ignoring China’s Human rights abuses in Xinxiang, but for how long can the Army rein them in?

How to build a dam in Pakistan, led by chief justice, army, Imran Khan and some TV anchors


Chief justice Nisar draws flak for prioritising dams and water scarcity at a time when more than 40,000 cases are pending in Pakistan Supreme Court.
Two months ago Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, thought it would be a good idea if the country’s citizens helped build a dam. Now, Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has gifted a cheque of 1 billion Pakistani rupees ($8 million) to the CJP to help build the Diamer-Bhasha dam, to be located on the Indus river, 165 km downstream of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Once the Pakistan Army was on board, people got into the act. Just the day before Bajwa donated his cheque, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday met WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) chairman Gen. (retd) Muzammil Hussain and told him to be at the PM office to start work on the construction of these dams at the earliest.
“I may supervise the dam project myself, given the urgency,” said Khan.
Even the railways have chipped in to the dam project. Railways minister Sheikh Rashid Saturday announced that train tickets would be taxed — from Rs 1 to Rs 10 — as part of his ministry’s contribution to the dam fund. He promised to raise Rs 100 million ($0.8 million) for the project.
The Pakistan high commission in London opened an account called the “Diamer-Bhasha & Mohmand Dam Fund 2018” as well. Pakistani cricket captain Sarfraz Ahmad said every player would contribute Rs 2 lakh each and the team a total of Rs 3.2 million or $26,000. Bank of Punjab officers announced a donation of Rs 10 million. At WAPDA, senior officers promised to donate two days’ salary.
Well-known singer Atif Aslam (Dil diyan gallan/karaange naal-naal beh ke) donated Rs 2.5 million ($20,325). Pakistan’s top journalist Hamid Mir on his show a few days ago took up the campaign and announced that Salman Ahmad, the poet-peace activist-author, would donate $100,000. At this point, the owners of his channel GNN, Zulqarnain Nawaz Chattha and Zubair Nawaz Chattha, were so enthused that they announced a contribution of Rs 5 crore.
On 11 September, the day the world was changed, Mir tweeted: “Water is symbol of life whole region needs water reservoirs we are not helping any individual or government by contributing in the dam fund we are helping humanity we are helping our countrymen who are facing problems due to water shortage this is a bigger problem than terrorism.” (sic)

‘Not everyone is happy’

But not everyone in Pakistan was as carried away. Some claim that instead of focusing on the 40,000 pending cases in the Supreme Court, the CJP is talking about dams and water scarcity.
PML-N party’s stalwart and former commerce minister Ahsan Iqbal pointed out that the ongoing dam fund collections was not the solution to the national crises. He slammed the current government for “begging by carrying the begging bowl in hands” for the funds collection and asked the PTI government to put in place “practical steps” for constructing dams in the country.

A tale of two dams

The project consists of two dams: The Diamer-Bhasha dam, to be located on River Indus, around 165 km downstream of the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, will produce an estimated 4, 500 megawatts of cheap energy. The location of the Mohmand dam will be on the Swat river, around 48 km from Peshawar in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of the country, and will produce 800 megawatt electricity.
The estimated cost for both projects is more than $12 billion. Certainly, CJP Nisar’s personal donation of Rs 1 million kick-started the project in the public domain. The dam fund collection gained a big boost when Prime Minister Khan on 7 September announced a merger of the PM-CJP fund to both expand and expedite the process.
“I want to commend Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar [for starting the dams fund], but this was not his job,” he said.
“This was the job of civilian leaders who knew this was going to swell into a crisis but did nothing to thwart it,” he added.

How it all started

Pakistan’s water crisis has been growing exponentially every year. Given the current water storage capacity of just 30 days of river inflow (just 9 per cent of average annual flow as against 40 per cent of the world’s average), reduction in storage capacity of existing reservoirs because of increased rate of sedimentation, irrigation efficiency plummeting to below 40 per cent, Pakistan needs quick and time-tested solutions.
The foundation for the Diamer-Bhasha dam was laid during former President Pervez Musharraf’s tenure in 2006. Former PM Nawaz Sharif had approved the financing aspect of the dam’s construction on 5 December, 2016, but it wasn’t until the Supreme Court’s directions on 4 July, 2018 that the project got a major impetus.
WAPDA has been given responsibility for implementing the project, but the question now is, where will the money come from? China, despite its flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have all failed to fund it for a variety of reasons.

In Pakistan, you can risk being charged with treason if you criticise a dam

In Pakistan, the Diamer-Bhasha dam has cheerleaders from the government, judiciary and the military.
Pakistan is being run on whims, U-turns and bizarre decrees nowadays. A fine example of this is the near-holy status the Diamer-Bhasha dam and its funding are assuming.
You cannot even criticise or joke about the dam anymore. You are just expected to quietly donate money for the dam and not question it.
It all began with the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar announcing the creation of a dam fund one fine day to address Pakistan’s water crisis. This was when the caretaker government was still in place. He even inaugurated the fund by announcing a donation of Rs 1 million to the Diamer-Bhasha dam and exhorted everybody in Pakistan to donate generously for its construction.
The obvious problem here is that this is not a judge’s job to do, even Imran Khan admitted to this.
 Instead of focusing his energy on the mountain of pending legal cases and urgent judicial reforms, the chief justice arrogates to himself one responsibility after another of the executive branch of the government. There is a backlog of nearly two million cases in Pakistani courts.
Climate change and water scarcity is a serious issue that should invite a well thought out multi-pronged strategy, but should the judge not ask the executive to find solutions?
His action set off a chain of events.
The military announced it would donate one days’ salary of junior officers and non-officer cadres and two days’ salary of officers to the fund. They later presented a cheque of over Rs 1 billion to the chief justice.
In July, Pakistan’s finance ministry opened a bank account to receive funds for the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
After assuming power, Prime Minister Imran Khan threw his weight behind this charitable project and appealed to overseas Pakistanis to donate $1,000 each or more to the fund. Private companies have since proceeded to cut staff salaries and donated as well.
All of this obviously invited mockery and anger from the public. Serious analysis and criticism also ensued on the demerits of building a large dam, particularly the Diamer-Bhasha dam because of its location. “It has been known in the inner recesses of the engineering establishment of Pakistan for the past 20 years or so, that the Diamer-Bhasha dam is not technically feasible because of the seismic risk. The dam site lies at the plate boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates. The site is traversed by multiple fault lines, which are well recognised even by Water and Power Development Authority’s own feasibility studies. Engineers like Bashir Malik, who is former technical adviser to the World Bank and United Nations and one of the most ardent supporters of dam-building in Pakistan, have categorically stated that the risk of earthquake-induced failure at the Diamer-Bhasha dam site is too great to carry on with construction,” wrote Daanish Mustafa, researcher in politics and environment at Kings College, London.
“Anyone with elementary math skills can tell that crowdsourcing financing for dams can take hundreds of years. The project will probably get inaugurated a few more dozen times, until life takes us onwards to other distractions,” he wrote.
The appeals for charity were dubbed ‘government by begging’ and social media was flooded with jokes. One joke referred to the desperate leaders of Pakistan selling family possessions, or resorting to selling manhole lids from their neighbourhood, and in the end, resorting to begging to fund the dam. Eventually, it made it to the National Assembly where opposition senator Mushahid Ullah Khan of PML(N) delivered a devastating blow to the government with this joke and telling it to be constructive rather than beg.
“I’m just saying it’s the mark of a drug addict… he either steals and sells or beg. He won’t work hard which is the real work of government,” said Khan.
But neither Prime Minister Imran Khan nor Chief Justice Nisar are backing off. In fact, it gets worse and worse. The chief justice proceeded to issue a threat to try anyone opposing the dam with treason by applying Article 6 of the Constitution. “I am examining the scope of Article 6 to see whether it could be invoked against opponents of this national cause,” he said while hearing a case against bottled-water companies. More derision and disbelief followed. The dam issue has entered the realm of absolute ridiculousness and lawlessness, as Article 6 pertains only and only to subverting the Constitution and carries a death penalty. It cannot, by any somersault of imagination, be applied to anything else, let alone public scrutiny of an infrastructure project.
Article 6 reads: “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”
So, the dam had become holy, and it triggered another storm of jokes and direct challenges to the chief justice. “I am opposed to Kalabagh Dam. I have serious reservations about the Basha Dam …. Now comes #TryMeInTreason,” tweeted senior journalist Murtaza Solangi.
I am opposed to Kalabagh Dam. I am opposed to big dams. I have serious reservations about Basha Dam because of the earthquake hazards. Now come Come
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued an advisory to all television channels to not air any ‘tauheen amez’ (derogatory) material against the dam or the fund.
It is hard to say how long this circus will go on. On the one hand, the government and judiciary are running around with a begging bowl and trying to silence dissent. And on the other, the government has announced a $180 billion housing scheme roping in a London-based property tycoon who is now allowed to sit in government meetings.
Where that money is coming from is anyone’s guess, even as backbreaking increases in indirect taxation and forced donations from salaries is hitting citizens’ pockets.