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

Agencies

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WASHINGTON: As the new government in Islamabad starts work on addressing the concerns related to money laundering and militant financing, a US State Department report released said that Pakistan criminalised militant financing through the Anti- militancy 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 militant from collecting funds within their domain.
The official US report — released with the State Department’s country reports on militant — 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 militant 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 militant financing and militancy.
The US State Department in its report acknowledged that Pakistan’s laws technically comply with international anti-money laundering/countering the financing of militant 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 militant financing, including by enhancing interagency coordination.
The law designates the use of unlicensed hundi and hawala systems as predicate offences to militant 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 militant financiers operating in the cross-border area”.
Reviewing Pakistan’s efforts to fight militancy, the report notes that Pakistan continued to experience significant militan threats in 2017, although the number of attacks and casualties decreased from previous years.
The report also identifies several major militant groups focused on conducting attacks in Pakistan, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, and the sectarian group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami.


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India asks China to be sensitive to its concerns

Sakeena Banday

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New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and discussed the progress in bilateral ties since the Wuhan summit last year and said both sides were implementing the decisions in a manner in which “we are sensitive to each other’s concerns”.

His meeting with Wang, who is also the State Councillor, a high-level post in the hierarchy of the ruling Communist Party of China, took place as both the countries grappled with a host of issues, including Beijing’s continued attempts block efforts list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist by the United Nations.

In his opening remarks, Gokhale said it has been year since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the Chinese city of Wuhan where the two leaders reached many understandings.

 

He said both sides were making efforts to implement the understandings reached at the Wuhan meeting.

“As your excellency said we will work together with the Chinese side to deepen understanding to strengthen trust to implement the decisions that are taken by leaders and to do it in a manner in which we are sensitive to each other’s concerns,” he said.

He also referred to the “brisk” political exchanges since the Wuhan summit, including Wang’s visit to New Delhi to launch people to people mechanism and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is “looking forward to come to China this year”.

Gokhale, who arrived in Beijing on Sunday is also scheduled to hold detailed talks with Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou on Monday.

In his opening remarks, Wang said China and India are two emerging market countries besides neighbours and “each other’s strategic partners.”

“In that sense, it is important for the two countries to work together to increase strategic communication, deepen mutual political trust and strengthen strategic cooperation on international and regional issues.

“Given that it is timely and important for you to have regular consultations with the Chinese side,” he said.

One of the issues that was expected to figure during this round talk was China’s continued attempts block efforts list JeM chief Azhar as global terrorist by the UN.

China blocked Azhar’s designation for the fourth-time recently stalling efforts by the United States, the United Kingdom, France move at the 1267 UN counter terrorism committee following the February Pulwama terrorist attack. It was the first technical hold put up by China post Wuhan summit.

Also, India continues to have strong reservations to join China’s mega Belt and Road Initiative due to its objections over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Both the issues have become major irritants in the bilateral ties.

In order to counter China’s technical hold in the 1267 committee, the US, the UK and France have taken the Azhar issue to the UN Security Council, which Beijing firmly opposed, saying that it should be resolved by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee.

China also said the issue moved towards settlement and accused the US of attempting to scuttling its resolution.

Gokhale’s visit also coincides with China holding its biggest international event, the second Belt and Road Forum next week to showcase its BRI projects.

India, like the first BRF held in 2017, is reportedly not attending its second edition being held here from April 25-27.

Foreign Minister Wang said on Friday that differences over the BRI would not come in the way of the development of India-China relations and China is preparing for a Wuhan-style summit meeting this year.

He also said the CPEC is an economic project and has nothing to do with the sovereignty issues.

“One of our differences is how to look at the BRI. The Indian side has their concerns. We understand that and that is why we have stated clearly on many occasions that the BRI including the CPEC is only an economic initiative and it does not target any third country and has nothing to do with the sovereign and territorial disputes left from history between any two countries,” he said.

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Interpol offers Lanka help to probe Easter blasts

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Colombo: The Interpol on Monday said it is ready to offer full support to the Sri Lankan authorities in investigating the country’s deadliest terror attack that killed 290 people in a series of eight blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in the country.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in a Twitter message said, “Interpol strongly condemns the horrific attacks and has offered its full support to the investigation being carried out by national authorities.” Paris-based Interpol is an organisation which facilitates worldwide police cooperation. Stock said Interpol can deploy an Incident Response Team at the request of a member country to provide on-site support during a crisis situation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims,” he tweeted. Eight coordinated explosions targeted Easter worshippers and high end hotels popular with international guests.

 

The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

According to the Government Analysts Department, a total of seven suicide bombers carried out the devastating blasts killed 290 people and injured 500 others.There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police on Monday arrested 24 people and declined to give further details.

The blasts – the deadliest attacks in the country’s history shattered a decade of peace in the island nation since the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.

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IS says it’s behind attack on security building in Saudi Arabia

Agencies

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Riyadh: The militant Islamic State (IS) group says it was behind an attack the previous day on a Saudi security building in the town of Zulfi in which all four gunmen were killed and three security officers were wounded.

The kingdom’s state-run al-Ekhbariya news channel had reported that police foiled Sunday’s attempted attack. Zulfi is about 250 kilometres north of the capital, Riyadh.

Videos circulating on social media show dead gunmen with machine guns and explosive devices.

 

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency released a video on Monday of the four alleged “martyrdom-seekers” behind the attack. It’s unclear when the footage was filmed.

In the video, one man criticises the Saudi royal family and says the attack is to avenge Muslims imprisoned in the kingdom, Syria and Iraq.

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