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Foreign agencies funding groups to destabilise country, Senate told

ISLAMABAD: The Senate was told on Thursday that certain foreign intelligence agencies funded militant groups in Pakistan to destabilise it.

Answering a question about major sources of funding being used in acts of terrorism in the country, Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman said it was difficult to pinpoint with 100 per cent accuracy the sources of terrorism funding. But some of the generally perceived sources include extortion and funding by foreign intelligence agencies.

He said that militants were known to extort money from drug dealers and producers operating in the areas straddling the Pakistan Afghan border.

Giving details of the investigations being conducted to collect information about terrorism funding, he said 844 such cases were under investigation, including 498 registered under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 230 under anti-money laundering law and 116 cases of suspicious transactions reported by the financial monitoring unit of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Briefing the house about the steps being taken by the government to eliminate sources of terror funding, he said that in order to strengthen the anti-terrorist regime, with a focus on choking terrorism funding sources, amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 had been introduced in March 2013 and June 2014, to make the law more effective and harmonised with international best practices. Rules under the law for freezing assets of terrorists have been framed and are with the law and justice division for final vetting.

According to the minister, the SBP issued regulations to all banks, for strict compliance, regarding money laundering and terrorism financing in Sept 2012. The regulations are regularly updated by the SBP.

The Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 has been promulgated which makes collection of funds for terrorist organisations through any information technology system or electronic devices an offence. The Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 has been enacted.

The government has chalked out the National Action Plan whose point No 6 relates to “choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations”. NAP is being implemented in letter and spirit.

The minister said collection of funds, through donation boxes, for different organisations had been banned. In case of violation, donation boxes are seized and action is taken by the police.

Reporting organisations were legally bound to send financial intelligence about money laundering to the SBP in cases where there was a suspicion that funds related to terrorist activities or organisations, Mr Rahman said.

The government has recently shared a list of persons placed on the Fourth Schedule of the ATA 1997, along with their national identity card numbers for the freezing of their bank accounts. Accordingly the SBP has frozen 4,461 bank accounts all over the country.

The minister said the central bank had also issued prudential regulations under which bankers were duty bound to exercise customer due diligence and know their customer obligations without fail and report suspicious transactions to the financial monitoring unit of the SBP.

Designated / proscribed entities and individuals are prohibited from opening bank accounts and availing of any facility from any financial institution.

The house was informed that 4,613 people had been killed and 12,188 injured in 5,321 incidents of terrorism in different parts of the country since 2013.

As per details, 1,794 people were killed and 5,352 injured in 1,571 such incidents in 2013. Though the number of the incidents rose to 1,816 in 2014, the number of lives lost came down to 1,172 and those injured to 3,185. In 2015, the number of the incidents was 1,139 and the number of the slain slipped in three digits for the first time in recent years to reach 838. The number of injured in terrorist incidents during the year was 1,706.

In 2016, the number of incidents of terrorism substantially declined to 785. The incidents claimed 804 lives and left 1,914 people injured.

During the first month of the current year so far, 10 incidents of terrorism have claimed five lives and injured 31 others. Expenditure on govt ads

The house was told that the government had spent Rs11.78 billion on official advertisements from 2013 to Dec 2016. The share of print and electronic media was Rs8.13bn and Rs3.62bn, respectively. The year 2015-16 appears to be the most expensive year when the government released advertisements worth over Rs5bn, including Rs2.85bn advertisements to the print media and Rs2.29bn to the electronic media.

Senator Farhatullah Babar proposed that the recent report of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on the Qisas and Diyat law be placed before the Senate for discussion to suggest ways to improve the law.

Taking part in the discussion on the 2014 report of the NCSW that was placed in the house in March last year, he also proposed drawing up of a NCSW strategic plan for 2017 to carry forward its statutory obligations for which it was created through an act of the parliament.

The plan should include drawing up of a broad-based charter of women rights, overseeing the implementation of Pakistan’s obligations under different international covenants relating to women rights, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the setting up of a revolving fund to meet financial needs of the commission.

He said there was a huge agenda waiting to be implemented for protecting and empowering women and ending their exploitation. “It is a continuous struggle,” he said. “The more we get close to the goal post in relation to women rights the farther the goal post recedes”.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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