Pakistan has removed around 4,000 names of terrorists from its watchlist in what Islamabad says is an effort to meet its commitments ahead of a new round of evaluations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The New York-based Castellum, which automates compliance of nations placed on watch lists for their terror-related activities, has found that in the last 18 months, Islamabad had quietly deleted nearly 3,800 names from the Proscribed Persons List “without explanation or notification to the public.”
The list, which in 2018 contained about 7,600 names, has been brought down to 3,800. No public explanation was given for the removals of the names, however, a Pakistani official said that they are part of the Islamabad’s continuing attempts to comply with a pledge to strengthen its counterterrorism safeguards.
The size and pace of the removals is unprecedented, says Peter Piatetsky, the co-founder of Castellum.AI. “Removing nearly 4,000 names without a public explanation is very unusual and it raises important questions about the listing process,” he said.
International standards call for nations to declare de-listings to the financial sector rapidly upon taking such action. Pakistan, which designates entities and persons with suspected links to terrorism under its Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, hasn’t traditionally done so.
Tahir Akbar Awan, from the Ministry of Interior in Pakistan, said the list had become “inflated with multiple errors” as it included names of people who had passed away and those who may have committed felonies but weren’t connected with a designated terror organization.
Islamabad has been under heightened scrutiny from the FATF since June 2018. If Pakistan fails to make progress, FATF members could black-list the country and further diminish the country’s access to the global financial system.
As per experts, it is very obvious that the FATF has an expectation that Pakistan goes ahead and prosecutes some of the notorious terrorists including Hafiz Saeed whose name remains on the list.
The experts further states that many names removed from Pakistan’s terror list seems to be nicknames for designated terrorists listed on U.S. or United Nations sanctions lists, according to Castellum.AI. The lack of certain identifiers like the dates of birth etc makes it almost impossible to know for sure, the expert concluded.
Dylan Tokar, WSJ. Tim Edwards, The EurAsian Times