Pakistan issues notice against donations to terror groups
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Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior issued an unusual advertisement in many newspapers in the country on Saturday, urging the public not to donate to organisations involved in terrorism.
“Donations only belong to charitable organisations, before parting with your hard earned money make sure that your money is not going into the hands of terrorists,” the notice said, cautioning that making donations, giving financial assistance or serving outfits that were banned or under observation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and UN Act, 1948, was a crime. It warned of prison sentences of 5 to10 years and a fine of up to 10 million rupees, in addition to forfeiture of property.
The advertisement named 72 organisations, which are banned or under observation for involvement in terrorism, barring them from collecting donations.
The Jamat-ud-Dawa, the organisation led by Hafiz Saeed and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniyat, responsible for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attack, are on the list.
The notice is seen as an indication that the Pakistan government is beginning to put pressure on Hafiz Saeed. It follows a special regulatory order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan on January 2. Official data say Pakistanis donate 650 billion rupees every year to charity, and officials think as much as 35% goes to charities of banned organisations.
‘Not to please anyone’
In a similar action last year in January, Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest but released by Lahore High Court after almost ten months when the government failed to file charges.
The latest move has sparked a debate whether it was taken to please the United States or India. Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir denied it was meant to please anyone. He told BBC Urdu that the action taken against Jamaat-ud-Dawa and FIF related to Operation Raddul Fisaad announced by the government last year. “We have to get rid of the terrorists in our country. They are also banned by the UN. Our decision against JuD is measured and [taken] after much deliberation. We have to protect our future so that terrorists will not enter our schools and shoot the students,” he said.
In an angry response, Hafiz Saeed said in a video message in Lahore that the steps against JuD were taken under international pressure. The JuD would challenge them in court.
Fear of action
Officials give a different explanation. They say the action would help avoid a negative report by the Financial Action Task Force meeting in Paris next month to examine steps taken by member-countries against terror financing and money laundering. Last year’s action against Hafiz Saeed was initiated after U.S. officials met a Pakistani diplomat on January 11 and raised the issue in the latest report of the FATF’s Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering. It recommended that Pakistan prevent organisations and their subsidiaries declared as terrorists by the UN from collecting donations.