Anti-Money laundering and countering terror financing has assumed greater importance in the determination of interstate relationship. The Financial Task Force a conglomerate of governments has been established in 1989 with an objective to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The intent and purport are to develop a basis for a coordinated strategy to meet the challenges. Associated with this is the Asia Pacific Group (APG) which implements anti-money laundering policies and initiatives as well as secures an agreement to establish a more permanent regional anti-money laundering body regime. APG and FATF have now emerged as leading agencies to gauge the capacity and efforts of member countries in combating money laundering in support of terrorism.
This has been also criticized as a lever of the superpowers to bring the developing countries to kneel and to their line. These assumptions may be true to an extent in the context of 40 years long Afghan conflict in the region, amidst blame other syndrome and IMF dealings. However, certain stark realities cannot be ignored regarding the undocumented economy and the role of violent non-state actors, also operating under the guise of charities and other forums. A country like Pakistan has plethora of laws to deal with issue, such as Pakistan Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Qanoon e Shahadat, (Evidence Law), Anti Money laundering Act 2010, Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, Investigation of Fair Trial Act 2014, The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Act, 1997, State Bank, Companies Act 2017, Societies Registration Act 1860 etc. The country is also a signatory to all kinds of treaties dealing with terror financing. As such its various institutions are not only under an obligation under their own national laws but also under the international law to act efficiently and effectively against the menace of terror financing.
In this connection, realizing the gravity of the situation the first-ever National Internal Security Policy of Pakistan 2014-2018 (NISP) gives an overarching guideline to protect the national interests of Pakistan by enhancing deterrence and capacity of the security apparatus to neutralize the threats to the internal security of Pakistan. It focuses on the reorganization and activation of Counter-Terrorism Departments (CTD) in all the Provinces comprising of intelligence, operations, investigations, attached with Provincial Rapid Response Forces (RRF) and other technical sections enabling themselves to tackle the entire spectrum of internal security threats including terrorism and subversive activities. NISP also claimed to modernize CTDs. In a follow up to the NISP, the National Action Plan besides other points accords the highest priority to choking the finances for terrorist organizations. The Home Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa comprehending the new dynamics of terrorism and to achieve the goals set by NISP, formed a working group for reforms in the criminal justice system in 2014. The group amongst others suggested the establishment of anti-cybercrime, anti-money laundering and Cyber Crime Wing within the Counter-Terrorism Department. But, unfortunately, it did not materialize so far. This hampers the capacity of the Counter-Terrorism Department.
Although different entities involved in the process of countering terror financing in their own wisdom are doing hectic efforts to meet the strategic conditions set by the FATF, the country is still not out of woods. The sword of FATF is hanging, as Pakistan is struggling hard to come out of the grey list. The question boggling the mind is why? Why we are in this catch 22 situation? While analyzing the documents of National Internal Security 2014-2018, 2018-2022 read with the National Action Plan, we find all good phrases, analytical skills, goals and timelines but when it boils down to implementing agencies and officers, the result is abysmally discouraging. All the clichés of functional specialization used in laws and policies becomes meaningless and exposes the weak capacity of the whole hierarchy dealing with terror financing.
Whenever the hammer of international agencies falls, the system reacts abruptly such as hammering the Non-Profit Organizations and actions under maintenance laws. Suddenly, the office of DC, Counter-Terrorism Department, Special Branch, Industries and others one after the other, in a mechanical fashion tar all with the same brush, harassing them to provide information within hours. Usually, such ire falls on genuine Non-Profit Organizations, whereas these departments have no clue as to how places of worship and seminaries spring up within a short radius even in posh places such as Hayatabad, Peshawar.
The situation does not require a knee jerk reaction but a carefully crafted strategy. We have to understand that one of the most important elements of the strategy is to know where we stand i.e. baseline. Having worked out the weak areas, then we can be able to pug the gaps and take remedial measures. Today, the weak area is the capacity of implementing agencies such as the FIA and Counter-Terrorism Department. They still suffer from the problems of functional specialization, having nominal specialists in comparison to the magnitude of the problem; while the heads of such departments are usually generalists having no expertise in those areas.
The need of the hour is not only to provide crash training programmes but also induct functional experts in the Counter-Terrorism Department and FIA specializing in countering terrorism and Cyber Crime. Moreover, a careful selection of their heads with an understanding of these issues is imperative.