Pakistan remains on FATF ‘Grey list’

For some years now Pakistan’s friends in Washington, London and even Beijing have been asking the powers that be to take action terrorist groups and terror financing. Islamabad- Rawalpindi, however, believed that Pakistan is so important to the global community that nothing will ever happen to this country.

 

We received a wakeup call this February when Pakistan was placed on the grey list of FATF but nothing was done and so four months later the FATF has decided to keep Pakistan on the grey list. This is not the first time this has happened. Pakistan was on the FATF list from 2012 to 2015 as well.

 

In February 2018, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — an inter-governmental body established in 1989 that “sets standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system,” placed Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ —- meaning a country that does not do enough “to counter and combat money laundering and terror financing.” While FAFT does not have the authority or power to impose sanctions on a country found non-compliant with the required standards yet being placed on an FATF list means a country will find it difficult to access funds from the international market.

 

According to a news story: “Presenting Pakistan’s case at the FATF talks in Paris, Dr Shamshad Akhtar, the interim minister for finance and planning, apprised the watchdog of the steps the country has taken to stem money laundering and terror financing, and put up a robust case for not placing its name on the greylist. During the crucial meeting, the Akhtar-led Pakistani delegation also talked about Islamabad’s efforts against the banned outfits and various terrorist groups. The Pakistani delegation’s case indicated that the nation has been working to curb financial assistance for terrorists, made existing laws better, and ensured improved implementation of the current regulations.”

 

However, instead of undertaking actual actions the government preferred to argue that the reason why Pakistan was still on the grey list was solely because of the actions of the United States and India. “Speaking in light of the latest development, Azam Khan, the caretaker minister of interior affairs, said the watchdog was under pressure from the United States and India, both of which together also compelled Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and China.”

 

Further, akin to February, till the last-minute government sources kept arguing “that Pakistan was likely to be granted more time to implement necessary measures to be compliant with the FATF’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations, that did not turn out to be the case in the six-day meeting in the French capital that runs from June 24 through 29.”

 

If Pakistan’s caretaker government really wants to improve the economic situation they need to take real action that is verifiable and evident to the global community, otherwise Pakistan’s economy will go from bad to worse.

Pakistan Army Declares War on Dissent

Every Pakistani reporter, blogger and columnist knows that Big brother is watching them. Amnesty international’s recent report of May 2018 “Pakistan: Human rights under surveillance,” shows how human rights activists in Pakistan have been targeted and their computers and accounts hacked. Global media watchdogs like Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders have consistently spoken about “overt press censorship” in Pakistan. Pakistan’s human rights watchdog HRCP also issued a recent statement titled “No room for dissenters” in which it expressed “grave concern over the increasing frequency and ‘sheer impunity’ with which anyone critical of the state is being targeted.”

On June 4 at a press conference on Monday June 4, DG ISPR spoke about “censorship on media reportedly at the behest of security establishment. He said he maintained contacts with media owners and all the journalists.” According to media reports: DG ISPR “said the army had never tried to dictate any media group or journalist to report according to their wishes. He expressed his gratitude to the local media, which, he said, often reports keeping in mind the country’s larger interest. Maj Gen Ghafoor raised serious questions over the use of social media to propagate certain message against Pakistan and its institutions.”

What was worrying was that the DG also “showed a chart featuring how certain individuals re-tweet anti-Pakistan content. Interestingly, the list includes certain political figures, whose identities were not shared, and some media personalities. Names of some journalists on the chart drew strong reaction on social media with some calling it an open threat to those who do not subscribe to the views of security establishment.”

The chart is reproduced below from social media:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed “strong disapproval’ of the slide display of images and names of social media users and of branding them ‘anti-state’. ‘With less than two months to the elections,’ added the Commission, ‘an ominous pattern seems to be emerging: even the slightest expression of political dissent, especially by journalists and social media activists, can be labelled “anti-state”, often with worrying implications for their physical safety.”

One day before the press conference, several Pashtun ethnic rights activists were killed and at least 25 were wounded when their gathering in Wana was attacked by Taliban militants and security forces opened fire on protesters soon after. In a twitter post, Manzoor Pashteen, the head of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), said “that at least 10 people died and 30 were wounded during Sunday’s violence. In his Twitter post, Pashteen described how Taliban fighters had first attacked the PTM gathering. Later angry protesters threw stones, prompting “indiscriminate” firing by security forces, he said.” According to Reuters story: “Some PTM members said they suspected the gunmen who attacked them belonged to a Taliban faction that has covert support from Pakistan’s powerful military.”

Just one day after this press conference well-known journalist and activist and vocal critic of the military establishment Gul Bukhari was abducted by unknown persons in Lahore while on her way to the studios of Waqt TV. According to a report in Dawn: Bukhari “was abducted on Sherpao Bridge in Lahore’s Cantonment area. Her family had reported her missing to the police. Punjab Police said Bukhari had not been detained by its personnel.”

Bukhari was freed in the wee hours of the following morning after outrage and concern expressed on social media by media watchdogs as well as the British High Commission in Pakistan.

According to a report in BBC: “Gul Bukhari was freed several hours after being abducted, her family said. There had been outrage from colleagues. She had been on her way to work when she was stopped late at night in the city’s army-controlled cantonment area. A colleague said men in “army uniforms” were present at the abduction, along with others in plainclothes. It comes after a spate of similar kidnappings. Ms Bukhari, who has dual Pakistani-British nationality, had been on her way to television studios to record a show on which she appears, when she was seized. “They put a black mask on her face and took her,” Muhammad Gulsher, a producer on the Waqt show, told Reuters news agency. A number of pick-up trucks had stopped her car, he also quoted her driver as saying. Where she was taken remains unclear.”

In its statement HRCP was “appalled at the recent abduction of Gul Bukhari, a journalist known for her views on law enforcement organizations. While Ms Bukhari was returned safely home within a few hours, the fact that she was summarily “picked up” from the Lahore Cantonment should make it clear that enforced disappearances are rapidly becoming the norm—an easy and arbitrary means of intimidating those who do not toe the line.’”

According to the human rights watchdog: “HRCP feels acutely that this election is critical—more so than before—to preserving the country’s fragile democratic order. The right to non-violent dissent is part of this democratic order. We strongly condemn any use of extra constitutional means to intimidate and harass citizens, or to put them in a position that might compromise their safety.”

Bugti’s Support for Pakistan Democracy Opens Doors for Balochistan

The chief of Balochistan Republican Party (BRP), Brahumdagh Bugti, represents a voice of reason among Baloch nationalists who have borne the brunt of the worst atrocities by Pakistani authorities. But unlike some of them, he seems unwilling to close all doors for politics and a political settlement. After all, the Baloch are relatively in few numbers and have waged a struggle for their human rights and right of self-determination for several decades. But their courage notwithstanding, the Baloch cannot succeed by armed struggle. They will eventually need a political settlement that recognizes their national rights.

Recently, Bugti tweeted:

Some Baloch nationalists misread that tweet as support for one of the many Punjabi political actors that have condoned or ignored the injustices against the people of Balochistan. In fact, it should be seen as a sensible political move to expand the circle of friends within Pakistan for the Baloch people.

The most unreasonable stance against the Baloch has been adopted by Pakistan’s establishment, which has periodically waged war against the Baloch. General Pervez Musharraf killed Nawab Akbar Bugti and proudly proclaimed the end of Baloch resistance and Baloch nationalism. Since then, the Baloch have proved him wrong by resisting centralized control over their historic homeland.

The establishment has retaliated by completely taking over Balochistan’s political process, installing puppets in the provincial government and taking away any semblance of real Baloch representation in the government. Human Rights violation in Balochistan are rampant, forcing many Baloch leaders into exile or driving them underground. Those supporting the Baloch are dismissed as foreign agents.

Still, there are many Pakistanis committed to democracy and human rights who speak out boldly for the Baloch. Although those Pakistani politicians who have wielded power in recent years have done little to stand by the Baloch people, it is in the interest of the Baloch struggle that the Baloch seek support from any politician who confronts the Pakistani establishment. It is in this context that Brahumdagh Bugti’s acknowledgement of Nawaz Sharif’s recent anti-establishment stance should be seen.

No Baloch or supporter of Baloch rights can condone the Pakistani politicians’ tendency to ignore the Baloch. But we can all appreciate efforts to expand the circle of friends of the Baloch people from among opponents of Pakistan’s establishment.

ISI’s fake news ops get push back: Jang Geo group gets apology over false Cambridge Analytica allegations

It seems that the business of fake news is becoming less easy even though it has not come to an end. Just last month we at NP exposed Global Village Space as a fake news website (Why is a fauji propaganda site registered to Moeed Pirzada?)  Umer Ali, a Pakistani investigative reporter, exposed Eurasia Futures as a fake news website (Has Fake News in Pakistan Found Russian Allies?)

In 2017 we spoke about how the World was Cracking Down On Fake News but that Pakistan’s Media was At Serious Risk and on Pakistan’s addiction to Fake news

Both these websites Eurasiafuture.com and Global Village Space have now been taken to the cleaners.

Eurasiafuture.com and its website director Adam Garrie who alleged that Geo and Jang Group Editor in Chief, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had links with Cambridge Analytica have now issued apologies, retracted their allegations and issued an undertaking that they will not repeat any false allegations ever again.

In their articles these fake news websites had alleged “that Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in connivance with Nawaz Sharif, built a narrative for Greater Punjab. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was accused of stepping up Pashtun movement and also put, through fake news, blame of Mumabi attacks on Pakistan. According to these articles, patriotic circles as well as some quarters of the Pak army accuse Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Jang/Geo group of being foreign agents and promoting Western agenda in Pakistan. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was termed “media godfather” in these articles. It was also alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had admitted to having campaigned against the judiciary and institutions. It was also alleged that the government advertisements are distributed through Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA). Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of openly conspiring against Axact channels with the help of Nawaz Sharif. It was alleged that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman used his influence on the government machinery to block the pro-state narrative of Axact channels. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was also accused of spreading false narrative against Axact channels. It was further alleged that Nawaz Sharif had given Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman media publicity contract, and the latter was behind every political success of the former.”

In his apology Adam Garrie stated: “I requested the author of the Articles Mr Tayyab Baloch to provide any evidence to substantiate the serious and defamatory allegations made in the Articles against Mr Mir Shakil ur Rahman and/or Jang Group. Mr Tayyab Baloch refused and therefore could not and did not provide any such proof and so I have concluded that there was and is no evidence and that each the allegations made in the Articles against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or the Jang Group were wholly false, fabricated, malicious and highly defamatory of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Jang Group. I have also investigated each of the allegations made in the Articles and found them to be completely false, malicious and fabricated. By way of example only and to illustrate this, I found no evidence whatsoever to connect Cambridge Analytica with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Jang Group or his media conglomerate, nor is there any link of international funding of his media outlets to support any international political propaganda. Given the above I therefore consider it appropriate to make this retraction and unreserved apology to Mr Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Geo TV and the Jang Group. I hereby irrevocably, completely and unreservedly retract and revoke each and every allegation made against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and/or Geo TV and/or the Jang Group in the Articles as such allegations were and are wholly false, malicious, fabricated and highly defamatory.”

Further this apology by Eurasiafuture.com director will remain on the website for three months to “explain my feelings as how I felt betrayed and how I betrayed the trust of my readers which of course I regret deeply. I have written to others who lifted the same defamatory articles from my website and published them on their pages, it’s in no one’s interest to repeat these lies.”

‘Newspaper Founded by Pakistan’s Founder is Now Censored in Pakistan’

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist or own a media house. Pakistan ranks 139th out of 180 countries in Reporters Sans Frontier (RSF)’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. According to another media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 60 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. Following on the ban against Geo/Jang/News group comes the news about the banning and censorship against Pakistan’s oldest newspaper, Dawn, that was founded by Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

On May 12, the Dawn published an interview with former PM Nawaz Sharif in which Mr Sharif criticized what he called “parallel governments” inside Pakistan, spoke about how Pakistan had become isolated and stated ““Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the [Mumbai 2008 terror attacks] trial?”

 

The interview led to a pushback from the military intelligence establishment and within 3 days there was disruption in the distribution of Dawn newspaper in many areas of Pakistan. The Press Council of Pakistan “notified Dawn’s editor that the newspaper breached the ethical code of practice by publishing content that “may bring into contempt Pakistan or its people or tends to undermine its sovereignty or integrity as an independent country.”

 

According to RSF: “The interview, which reportedly displeased the Pakistani military, appeared in the 12 May (Saturday) issue and the blocking began on 15 May. According to RSF’s information, distribution is being disrupted in most of Baluchistan province, in many cities in Sindh province and in all military cantonments.”

 

RSF also stated: “The unwarranted blocking of the distribution of one of the main independent newspapers has yet again shown that the military are determined to maintain their grip on access to news and information in Pakistan. It is clear that the military high command does not want to allow a democratic debate in the months preceding a general election. We call on the authorities to stop interfering in the dissemination of independent media and to restore distribution of Dawn throughout Pakistan.”