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US retains Lashkar’s terror tag, casts a shadow over Pak’s chances at FATF

The US administration has reviewed and retained the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) designation for the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba along with seven other groups including the Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a US State Department statement has said. The Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was first notified as a terror group by the United States in December 2001.

The US State Department order comes ahead of the Financial Action Task Force meeting next month that will assess the progress made by Pakistan to curb terror financing. The global watchdog didn’t seem to agree with Islamabad’s pitch that it was taking concrete steps to fix gaps in its laws to check terror financing and should be taken off the grey list. At the end of the last review in October, FATF president Marcus Pleyer cautioned that Pakistan could not take forever to deliver on its commitments and repeated failure to deliver would result in the country being put in the blacklist.

Pakistan was put in FATF’s grey list in 2018 after the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog pointed out failing to control terror financing and money laundering.

But Islamabad is yet to take any concrete action and the Pakistani deep state continues to support terrorist activities in India and Afghanistan. Over the last month, however, Pakistan has gone on an overdrive to impress the FATF.

Last week, a Pakistani court sentenced Lashkar-e-Tayyiba commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi to 15 years jail in a terror-financing case. Another judge issued arrest warrants for Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, who Pakistan has claimed for years was not in Pakistan.

New Delhi has, however, pointed out that neither of the two designated terrorists had been charged for terrorist acts. Pakistan’s “farcical actions” appeared to be aimed at an upcoming review by the FATF of the country’s efforts to counter terror financing, India’s external affairs ministry Anurag Srivastava said in response, pressing for “credible action” against Pakistan against terror groups.

The US State Department decision to continue treating the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba as a terror organisation, an Indian official said, suggests that it is as potent as ever despite cosmetic steps taken by Islamabad.

The order comes weeks after Pakistan convinced the UN Security Council 1267 sanctions committee to let Lashkar’s Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi withdraw Pakistani ₹1.5 lakh from his bank accounts. Last year, Pakistan had secured a similar concession for Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed, also a UNSC designated terrorist.

The new State Department order has also expanded the Foreign Terrorist Organisation order to cover new aliases for the Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. The terrorist designations of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) and ISIL Sinai Peninsula (ISIL-SP) have been amended to include additional aliases, the department spokesperson said in a statement.

FTO and Specially Designated Global Terrorists designations seek to deny these terrorist organisations the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences of designations, all of the groups’ property and interests that are within the United States or that come within the United States or that come within the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them. In addition, as designated FTOs, it is a federal crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to them, the statement said.

By Hindustan Times

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