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Pakistan sanctions Taliban to avoid placement on global finance blacklist

Afghanistan's Taliban delegation
Afghanistan’s Taliban delegation arrives in Doha, Qatar, to sign an agreement between the Taliban and the U.S. on Feb. 29.
(Associated Press)

Pakistan issued sweeping financial sanctions against Afghanistan’s Taliban, just as the militant group is in the midst of a U.S.-led peace process in the neighboring country.

The orders, which were made public late Friday, identified dozens of individuals, including the Taliban’s chief peace negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar and several members of the Haqqani family, including Sirajuddin, the current head of the Haqqani network and deputy head of the Taliban.

The list of sanctioned groups included others besides the Taliban and were in keeping with a 5-year-old United Nations resolution sanctioning the Afghan group and freezing its assets.

The orders were issued as part of Pakistan’s efforts to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, which monitors money laundering and tracks terrorist groups’ activities, according to security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

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Last year the Paris-based group put Pakistan on a “gray list.” Only Iran and North Korea are currently blacklisted, which severely restricts a country’s international borrowing capabilities. Pakistan is trying to get off the gray list, said the officials.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban, but many of the group’s leaders are known to own businesses and property in Pakistan.

Many Taliban leaders, including those heading the much-feared Haqqani network, have lived in Pakistan since the 1980s, when they were part of the Afghan mujahedeen and allies of the United States to end the 10-year incursion into Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union. It ended in February 1989.

Pakistan has denied giving sanctuary to the Taliban following their ouster in 2001 by the U.S.-led coalition, but both Washington and Kabul routinely accused Islamabad of giving them a safe haven.

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Still, it was Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban that the U.S. eventually sought to exploit to move its peace negotiations with the insurgent movement forward. American officials signed a peace deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29. The deal is intended to end Washington’s nearly 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, and has been touted as Afghanistan’s best hope for peace after more than four decades of war.

But even as the U.S. has already begun withdrawing its soldiers, efforts to get talks started between Afghanistan’s elected government and the Taliban have been stymied by delays in a prisoner release program.

The two sides are to release prisoners — 5,000 by the government and 1,000 by the Taliban — as a goodwill gesture ahead of talks. Both sides blame the other for the delays.

The timing of Pakistan’s decision to implement the sanctions could also be seen as a move to pressure the Taliban into a quick start to the intra-Afghan negotiations.

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Kabul has refused to release the last Taliban prisoner it is holding, saying it wants 22 Afghan commandos being held by the Taliban freed first.

As well as the Taliban, the orders also target Al Qaeda and the Islamic State affiliate that has carried out deadly attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They also take aim at outlawed Pakistani groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), thousands of whom are believed by the U.N. to be hiding in remote regions of Afghanistan . The TTP has declared war on Pakistan, carrying out one of the worst terrorist attacks in the country in 2014, which killed 145 children and their teachers at a school in northwest Pakistan.

The orders also take aim at outlawed anti-Indian groups that are considered to be allied with the country’s security services.


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