Put back on terror-financing watch list, Pakistan vows to improve

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on patrol near the site of an attack by Pakistani Taliban on February 14, which killed four paramilitary policemen. (AFP)
Updated 30 June 2018

Put back on terror-financing watch list, Pakistan vows to improve

ISLAMABAD: Placed back on a terror financing watch list this week, Pakistan vowed on Saturday to tighten regulations and follow an action plan to curb money laundering and terror financing.
Pakistani officials attending a meeting in Paris had tried in vain to persuade the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep Pakistan off a list of nations with inadequate controls to prevent terror financing and money laundering.
Western allies have long pushed Islamabad to do more to curb militant groups on its soil, and the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany all argued back in February for Pakistan to be reinserted on the watchdog’s “grey list.”
Various anti-Western, anti-Indian Islamist militant groups are based in nuclear-armed Pakistan, while Afghanistan and western military officials have repeatedly complained about covert support in Pakistan for the Afghan Taliban and its cohorts, like the Haqqani group.
Pakistan was included on the watch list for three years until 2015, and FATF has told the government what needs to be done in order to be taken off again.
Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, who is part of the technocratic administration running the country until a general election on July 25, told FATF members in Paris that Pakistan plans to take a “whole-of-government” approach to strengthen counter-terrorism financing measures.
The finance ministry said Akhtar has set up an “institutional coordination and monitoring mechanism” to ensure that the action plan is implemented.
The return to a watch list could further handicap chances of attracting Western investment in Pakistan’s fragile economy, but it has China’s support for major infrastructure projects.


Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 35 min 17 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.