Pakistan’s terror watchdog to target ‘dubious’ charities

Pakistani police officers examine a bullet-riddled vehicle following an attack by a gunman in Quetta on Feb. 28, 2018.(AP Photo/Arshad Butt)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Pakistan’s terror watchdog to target ‘dubious’ charities

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) signed an agreement with the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy (PCP) on Wednesday as the country strives to meet global standards in the fight against terrorism funding and money laundering.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog, has said it will place Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries with strategic weaknesses on terrorism financing and money laundering in June.
FATF extended a three-month reprieve to correct irregularities before strict financial restrictions were imposed.
Regulation of non-government and non-profit organizations is a key part of the watchdog’s demands.
Organizations that comply with PCP will be accepted on NACTA’s white list of legally compliant entities. “It (PCP) certifies and verifies NGOs/NPOs and ensures the entities use banking channels for funding and that credible third parties conduct audits of those organizations,” NACTA official Qaiser Ashfaq told Arab News.
He said the move would promote genuine charity and humanitarian assistance organizations in Pakistan and discourage public donations to dubious unregistered entities or individuals.
A delegation of FATF’s Asian Pacific Group is due to visit Pakistan in April to deliver a list of requirements for an action plan to counter money laundering and terror financing.
NACTA officials said that the financial watchdog has yet to provide recommendations or list weaknesses in Pakistan’s financial monitoring system. Most of FATF’s standards were met before the regulator held its plenary meeting in February, they said.
Last week, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal lashed out at the US over criticism of Pakistan’s alleged weaknesses. “Recent FATF action 2 put us in grey is in violation of process & politically motivated 2 pressurize Pakistan (to) follow Trump admin policies. Our successes against terrorism are recognized internationally,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Defense analyst and former air vice-marshal Shahzad Chaudhry told Arab News that Pakistan should think strategically before confronting the US on its demands.
“Political manipulation will always take place if there is cleavage available to exploit that weakness,” he said.
However, Pakistani officials said that FATF’s decision would have no impact on the country’s $300 billion economy.
NACTA is working with departments to monitor and regulate the flow of funds and to close loopholes exploited to launder money, including terror financing.
The watchdog’s national coordinator, Lt. Cdr. Ihsan Ghani, said a task force formed last July would improve coordination between 27 agencies in Pakistan.
As part of the global measures, travelers will have to complete financial declaration forms on departure and arrival in the country. Up to $10,000 is allowed per person on departure, with a yearly limit of $60,000.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.