Millennium Post

Pretence of adherence

Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed's conviction on terror financing charges is definitely a positive development yet it reeks of political machinations that may be at play given Pakistan's interest to walk out of FATF's grey list. The Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan had registered 23 FIRs against Hafiz Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of terror financing. Hafiz has been arrested and released before back in 2008. However, it is the first time that he has been formally convicted of an offence. Sentenced to jail for five years and six months, Hafiz will be fined Rs 15,000 in each case. Following Hafiz's conviction, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar tweeted that "Pak. remains committed to the earliest completion of its FATF Action Plan". Pakistan was placed on the Grey List by the Paris-based FATF in June 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the Black List with Iran and North Korea. The plan of action largely requires Pakistan to make efforts to curb terror financing and money laundering. The October meeting had decided to place Pakistan in the Grey List till February 2020. With the FATF's plenary group scheduled to meet in Paris between February 16-21, Hafiz's formal conviction by an Anti-Terrorism Court has indeed come at a time when it would make the most impact. Hafiz's conviction proves a major point for Pakistan. It formally denotes that the country has made efforts to contain terror financing and money laundering by incarcerating one of the most notorious criminal masterminds. Hafiz also has a bounty on his head worth $10 million by the US government. Overall, Hafiz makes a good scapegoat for the Pakistan government to showcase at FATF's plenary group meeting next week in Paris. The odds slightly favour Pakistan as it is most likely to avoid entering the Black List. However, the net of Grey List may continue owing to votes which depends on plenary members. While Pakistan is likely to exact support from China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, it will look towards Western countries to end its Grey List adversity. Odds also favour Pakistan here since US — the prime sponsor for Pakistan's Greylisting — happens to be in a position that requires Pakistan's help. US' personal agenda of delivering on the Taliban front before US elections in November provides for a soft stance that it may take in the upcoming meet.

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