last week, China placed a hold on a joint proposal by India and the United States to designate Abdul Rehman Makki under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267. Makki is the brother-in-law of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The proposal was circulated to all UNSC members on June 1, with a deadline of June 16 for approval if no country blocked it. Resolution 1267 provides for sanctions against individuals and entities that support or finance the acts or activities of ISIL, Al-Qaida, associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities. LeT, JuD, Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammed and its head Masood Azhar are listed under 1267.
Who is Abdul Rehman Makki?
Makki was a virtual shadow of Hafiz Saeed before the latter was jailed in 2019 for 35 years, and continues to front for him now as he had done for a whole decade, when the LeT/Jamat-ud-Dawa leader, listed by the UN Security Council as a terrorist after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, went in and out of house arrest.
Wearing his trademark Pashtun cap, Makki would be a silent presence at the court hearings of Saeed’s challenging petitions his detention at the time under the Maintenance of Public Order. A fiery speaker, Makki has been a regular at the February Kashmir Solidarity Day rallies in Islamabad.
At one such rally in February 2010, two years after the Mumbai attacks, Makki threatened “rivers of blood” in India for not handing over Kashmir to Pakistan and threatened to seize it by force. He made a similar speech later that year.
Like his more infamous brother-in-law, he too uses the title Hafiz, an honorific for someone who has memorised the Quran, as well as the title of Naib Emir of JuD. He had escaped design under 1267 in 2008 when his leader as well as the LeT front organization Jamat-ud-Dawa were listed by the Security Council.
But months later, his speeches threatening violence in India, he earned had a place in the US Treasury Department list of designated and sanctioned terrorists in November 2010. A bounty of $2 million was also offered for information about him. That did not send him into hiding. He strode into court rooms in Lahore and Islamabad with Saeed’s lawyer and cadres of JuD and other admirers on hearing days, and sat in on the proceedings.
He and Saeed also jointly petitioned the Lahore High Court in 2014 challenging a bounty of $10 million declared by the US for information about Saeed.
At the time, Saeed was preparing to transition into a full-time politician, and the two men said the US bounties were a pressure tactic “at the behest of India”.
The US Treasury Department describes Makki as having “occupied various leadership roles within Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). He has also played a role in raising funds for LeT operations.”
Makki was among the six acquitted by the Lahore High Court in November 2021 of charges of terror funding through a LeT front organisation, a charity called Al Anfal. The Counter Terrorism Department of the Punjab Police in Pakistan had filed over 40 cases against several members of the JUD, including Makki and Saeed, and a lower court had ruled Makki to six months imprisonment. Saeed was convicted in several of the cases for a total of 36 years. He is behind bars at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
Role of FATF
The crackdown against the LeT/JuD in Pakistan began in 2017, under pressure from the Financial Action Task Force. Like several times before, Saeed was placed under house arrest, and released later that year. The next year, Pakistan proscribed JuD under its own 1997 Anti-Terror Act, amended as the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance, 2018. However, FATF gray listed Pakistan that year and asked it to do more. More crackdowns followed on LeT/JuD and Jaish-e-Mohammed and mosques and charities associated with them. Many charities were banned. Hundreds were arrested.
At risk of being blacklisted that year, Pakistan arrested Saeed once again in July 2019. According to Dawn newspaper, prior to his arrest, 23 FIRs had been registered against him and other JuD leaders including Abdul Rehman Makki, at police stations in Lahore, Gujranwala , Multan, Faisalabad and Sargodha. Makki had been arrested for hate speech in May 2019.
According to the Counter Terrorism Department, the JuD was financing terrorism from the funds collected through non-profit organizations and trusts including Al-Anfaal Trust, Dawatul Irshad Trust, and Muaz Bin Jabal Trust. Later, Saeed was named in 29 cases related to terror financing, money laundering as well as illegal land grabbing. It was in these cases and some others filed that Saeed was convicted, days before a FATF meeting to decide if Pakistan should be moved to the blacklist. Earlier this year, Saeed was convicted in two more FIRs. Makki, acquitted by the court, fell through the net once again.
The India-US move to designate Makki has come at a time when the FATF is considering removing Pakistan from the gray list after an “on site” inspection later this year. This follows a palpable improvement in ties between US and Pakistan in the months after the exit of the Imran Khan government through a no-confidence motion in the Pakistan parliament. The country’s new foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto visited Washington in May, and met US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken after a long drought in US-Pakistan ties. The US Treasury department plays a central role in FATF’s work.
“Pakistan’s continued political commitment to combating both terrorist financing and money laundering has led to significant progress,” FATF said in a statement last week. A team from the international body will visit Pakistan in October to verify the steps taken, and an announcement is expected before October.
For India, the continuous gray listing of Pakistan since 2018 was a huge propaganda victory, especially as it played well to domestic galleries. Some in India also claimed direct responsibility for ensuring that FATF placed Pakistan in the gray list. From the same galleries, Pakistan’s likely removal from the FATF ‘bad boys club’ is bound to be seen as a setback.
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The proposal to designate Makki helps Delhi remind the world that Pakistan may get off FATF, but its concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan remain. In this sense, Beijing’s “technical hold”, which means the proposal cannot come up for another six months – is useful. It has shown up China once again as having “double-standards” on terrorism as unnamed Indian officials have said in remarks to the media. Meanwhile, the US is balancing its assistance to Pakistan to get off the FATF’s list, by joining hands with India in the move to designate Makki. That helps both India and US to claim robust co-operation in counter terrorism efforts, just as it helps the Shehbaz Sharif government to claim he has brought about an improvement in ties with the US.