Hours ahead of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary, dissidents of Baloch, Pashtun, Uyghur, Tibet and Hong Kong origin organised a protest outside the FATF headquarters on Saturday, urging the international monitoring body to blacklist Pakistan and deliver on its mandate of stopping terror financing and sponsoring from Pakistan.
‘While Pakistan has been repeatedly adopting the tactic of showcasing taking action against terror financing by placing senior terror group leaders under arrest ahead of FATF plenaries, these UN listed entities, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (now rebranded as Jamat ud Dawa -JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) continue to function freely in the country, including collecting funds,” the organisers of the protest alleged.
“The charity front of JuD, the Falah e Insaniyat Foundation (FeF) has continued to collect funds. FeF chief Hafiz Abdur Rauf has remained activeand openly delivers sermons. Similarly, Talha Saeed, son of Jamaat ud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed and a designated a terrorist by the US Treasury dept, has been active and addressed gatherings in recent months. The JuD offices, including the Markaz Al Quds in Lahore, are also able to raise funds to meet their monthly expenditures. The JuD’s social media team functions unhindered advertising their fund collection drives.
The Jaish-e-Muhammmad (JeM) has also been openly collecting funds, often to support families of ‘martyrs’ or jihadists killed during operations’. The JeM has also been openly collecting funds, often to support families of ‘martyrs’ or jihadists killed during operations. In order to avoid detection by FATF, Pakistan has moved JeM training camps and fighters to Afghanistan’, organisers alleged.
The protest was planned and organised by The Dissident Club which has brought together the Pakistani and Chinese dissidents for the first time in France. After the protest, the participants met for a conference at The Dissident Club and vowed to continue their peaceful struggle through a joint action forum to continue to raise awareness about Pakistan-China nexus in France and in Europe and remind the West of its commitments of eradicating all kinds of terrorism and ensuring human rights globally. The Dissident Club is an intellectual space co-founded by Taha Siddiqui, an award-winning Pakistani journalist in exile.
Siddiqui is a Paris-based journalist who has founded the Dissident Club and South Asia Press. In 2018, Siddiqui began life in exile at Paris after armed men of the Pakistani agencies tried to abduct or assassinate him but his presence of mind led to last-minute escape from the clutches of death.
“The recent acquittal and orders of release of known terror operative Ahmed Omar Saeed Shiekh, who was sentenced for the abduction and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl, is also an indication that the deep links between the terror groups and the Pakistani State remains in place,” said Siddiqui.
“Moreover, Pakistan has allowed militants in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to openly collect funds and regroup, as reported by mainstream media in recent months. Even Pakistani parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar warned of militants regrouping in the tribal belt, in a recent interview,” he added.
“Also, recently Nobel Peace laureate and girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai received public threats on social media by the former spokesperson of the Pakistani Taliban Ehsanullah Ehsan, who mysteriously escaped from military custody recently, and has become active in the field again. Fingers point to Pakistan military’s complicity in the escape of this high-profile terrorist,” he further alleged.
‘Global Action Against Pakistan’
“Today our one of the utmost objectives of protesting in front of the FATF headquarters is to ask this global organisation is to take action against Pakistan which is continuously violating the International laws in various aspects. As far as FATF mandate is concerned, Pakistan is using local people deposits and various international funding amounts to finance International and local terrorist organisations. Particularly in Balochistan, Quetta Shura Council is still operating and working as a headquarter for various religious terrorist organisations, by the financial and logistic support of Pakistan and ISI,” said Munir Mengal, President of the Baloch Voice Association.
‘Secondly, another objective of FATF is to stop financing proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Balochistan is under occupation of Pakistan which is using Baloch people’s land for testing her nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. Recently, Pakistan claimed that testing of her missile Ghori 6 again Baloch land and people sacrificed by this testing. The missile was dropped at dera Bugti residential area and more than 20 people lost lives and several were injured. We request from this august international organisation to keep a check on China. Unfortunately, China for her strategic designs and to gain strategic depth in Balochistan is financing Pakistan in name of Cpec to eliminate Baloch people from their land. We have reports that China is not only using resources of Balochistan but also extracting Uranium from the mountains of Balochistan, namely from Kohe Suleman and Kohe Murdar,” Mengal added.
China’s Role in Backing Pakistani Terrorism
“China, a close strategic partner of Pakistan, has been defending and often covering up for Pakistan’s links to terror groups. It has stood by Pakistan in the UNSC and other multilateral forums on this issue,” the protesters alleged.
“For instance, China, for a decade, blocked the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the United Nations sanctions regime. Though Beijing repeatedly asserts that it is against terrorism, but it justified its UNSC vote against putting Azhar on the list by saying there wasn’t enough evidence against Azhar and citing “procedural problems”. This lack of Chinese commitment to counter terror is also expected influence China’s diplomatic support in the FATF, where China is likely to shield Pakistan from accountability. It may be noted that the success of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a project where China has huge strategic and economic stake, will depend on Pakistan escaping accountability of the FATF,” they further stressed.
Protesters have called upon the FATF member nations to not come under pressure from China and let Pakistan off the hook. “This should not be allowed, especially because it will not only embolden Pakistan to carry on using terror groups as strategic assets against its adversaries, but will also use them against their own people like the Baloch and Pashtuns who are already facing grave human rights violations,” the protesters said.
The FATF has in the past, during its review on China, noted the lack of transparency in China sharing data on money laundering and terror financing cases. It has also noted that China’s track record on targeted financial sanctions related to both terrorist financing and proliferation financing is poor, and China should fundamentally strengthen its legal framework and the implementation of these United Nations-mandated sanction regimes and work with financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions to achieve implementation without delay.
“China’s support to Pakistan in overlooking its sponsoring terror groups, is reciprocated by the latter in completely ignoring China’s human rights repression in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. If the FATF succumbs to Chinese pressure and does not blacklist Pakistan, it will indirectly be responsible for the continued abuses against the people of these regions,” a joint statement from the protesters said.
Dr Naseem Baloch, who is a victim of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, living in exile in France for past seven years and is Diaspora Community Organise for the Baloch National Movement, claimed that Balochistan is an occupied territory of Pakistan and it is now being colonised by China.
“There is a nexus between Pakistan and China. In Balochistan, there are many Chinese projects which are currently ongoing in the name of development. But these projects are only to benefit the elites of Pakistan and China. There is no gas, no hospitals, no schools in the area where this development is happening. They are making roads to connect Balochistan to China but why cannot they build schools, hospitals, etc.? There is massive financial corruption in these projects. We reject Chinese imperialism and this forceful marriage between the Baloch region and China,” Dr Naseem said.
Balochistan, he said, is an occupied territory and “China must directly talk to the Baloch if it wants to do so-called development in the region”.
“Currently, Pakistan has forced the Baloch to migrate from the regions where China is investing through military operations. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has displaced thousands of Baloch and forced them to become refugees on their own land,” he said.
The FATF plenary will be held from February 22 to 26 where Pakistan’s fate of will be decided by the top anti-money laundering and terror financing watchdog.. Pakistan is unlikely to be removed from the grey list amid growing pressure against Islamabad globally to act against terrorists on its soil.
The author is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy and Internal Security.