Pakistan got a four-month respite for meeting a deadline set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to counter terror financing as the Paris-based organization announced a temporary suspension of its activities because of the COVID-19 crisis.
At the same time, FATF on said in a statement posted on its website that it would actively monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on measures to counter illicit financing.
Earlier, the FATF had decided to retain Pakistan in its ‘Grey List’ and warned the country of severe consequences if it fails to prosecute and penalise those involved in terror financing.
Pakistan has almost managed to address 14 of 27 actions for restraining terror-financing to radical organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) who have been accused by New Delhi for carrying attacks in India, mainly in Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian Security experts speculate that to evade FATF blacklisting, meet the remaining 13 pointers and continuing to incite terrorism in the Kashmir, Islamabad had covertly brought indigenous terror outlets into existence.
With this move, Islamabad can label the erupting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir as indigenous while cut all association with other terror groups who are under the scanner of FATF and New Delhi
One such outlet that has come into the limelight is ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF), which is suspected of being linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, (LeT), the same terror group which is accused of carrying the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament, the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2019 Pulwama attack.
Lately, Indian media reports highlighted rifts between Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and the newly formed The Resistance Front (TRF) after Abbas Sheikh, a top commander of HM left for TRF over a dispute with its policy to kill Kashmiri policemen and civilians.
TRF has also issued a statement on the ex-HB commander joining the outlet. It is reported that on letterhead, with its Islamic jihadist logo and motto ‘Resistance till Victory’, TRF said “Commander Abass left Hizb because he also does not agree with HB for killing Kashmir police and civilians. Now, brother Abbas is with us and we will fight with anyone who kills or hurts any Kashmiri. This is a final warning to HB. Don’t force us to take the hard route. No warning now onwards, only action.”
Criticizing fellow terrorist organization Hizbul Mujahideen’s policies of killing Kashmiri policemen and civilians, the statement said that “HM should understand that our fight is with India and not with Kashmiri people. We thought we will fight together with occupational forces, but that was our biggest mistake.”
Increasingly, more and more members are leaving HM due to the lack of similar ideology that has weakened the terror group from within and giving momentum of TRF – the so-called indigenous terror group.
Experts talking to the EurAsian Times state that if the majority of the militants operating in Kashmir leave Pakistan-sponsored groups like HM, JET, JeM and join the ‘indigenous’ TRP, Islamabad could claim clamping down on these terror organizations, as required by FATF, and hope to be removed from the greylist.
With COVID-19 pandemic, the FATF will not review Pakistan in June, as originally scheduled. This will give Pakistan some additional time to disassociated itself with HM, JET, JeM and covertly strengthen the TRF.
Pakistan was not mentioned by name in the FATF statement however diplomats based in New Delhi said that the statement meant that Pakistan was among the nations that would get more time to achieve the deadlines set by the FATF.