June 26 marks the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The theme for 2021 is âSharing Drug Facts, Saving Livesâ. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), nearly 210 million people use illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics worldwide.
Pakistan is one of the worst affected victims of terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, tax evasion, corruption and rent seeking. The war on terrorist networks – Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS), Al Qaeda and the Taliban (enjoying networking with many outlaw groups that have centers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere) does can be won only if their financial lifeline is destroyed. These networks derive a lot of money from voluntary donations to organized crime.
The questions that annoy everyone are: where do these terrorists get so much money? Why are governments not serious about cracking down on illegal remittances? If bank channels are used, then why can’t senders and recipients be traced? If hawala and hundi are used for the illegal transfer of funds, why are those who engage in these illegal activities not arrested and punished? Who finances these terrorist networks? Who provides them with sophisticated weapons and military training?
It is a well established fact that criminals send billions of dollars every year from bank accounts held in various countries. The crackdown on this huge dirty money is the real problem – although it finds limited media coverage and even military strategies to uproot terrorism which is largely fueled by arms and drug deals, both nationally and global.
James Petras, professor of sociology, Binghamton University, New York, in his article titled ‘Dirty Money’ Foundation of US Growth and Empire ‘makes startling revelations: international banking experts that the United States and European banks launder between 500 and 1 trillion dollars of dirty money each year, half of which is laundered by American banks alone “.
These annual inflows exceed all net transfers from major US oil producers, military industries and aircraft manufacturers. The most recent estimates (2020) indicate that 90 offshore jurisdictions around the world have licensed around 11,000 offshore banks that control around $ 155 trillion in assets. This is the reality on the ground, whereas for two decades we have heard successive American presidents engage against the wars against drugs and terrorism (sic). They are in reality false wars.
President Biden announced the complete withdrawal of U.S. and Allied forces by the 20th anniversary of September 11. Behind this is the hope of a reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban / Daesh and the destabilization of the entire region for the containment of China, in order to attack its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – creating troubles for Pakistan vis-Ã -vis China. Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the BRI.
The 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy (INCSR) report, prepared annually by the US State Department, admits that: âOnce money is laundered, it can be recycled into good faith investments not only in real estate, hotels, etc. also in other areas such as the service economy and manufacturing. Dirty and secret money is also funneled into various financial instruments, including trading in derivatives, commodities, stocks and government bonds, and terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere use it â.
According to a global presentation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and BuzzFeed News via FinCen Files, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has revealed “billions of dirty money.” Although Pakistan has gone to great lengths to block huge funds in the aftermath of 9/11 through banks, hawala and hundi, its name has been graylisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF ) in 2018. However, no action against India was taken. been caught until today, even though it appears as the second largest money launderer after the United States in FinCen files.
Professor Petras in âEnormous By Any Measureâ says: âWashington and the mass media have portrayed the United States as being at the forefront of the fight against drug trafficking, drug laundering and the political corruption: the image is that of white and clean hands fighting against dirty money. The truth is exactly the opposite â. The case of Afghanistan is no different where the drug lords, through the accumulation of vast assets, influence politics and paralyze state institutions (the chapter ‘Norwegian Connection’ in ‘Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin ‘- written by me – testifies).
Since organized crime syndicates have deep-rooted tentacles and influences in financial systems, terrorists have no difficulty exploiting the available infrastructure. There is sufficient evidence that militant groups working against Pakistan’s security and stability generate huge funds through organized criminal activity and also obtain generous “donations” from “sympathizers” in Pakistan and abroad. .
In Afghanistan, just after the announcement of the withdrawal of US / Allied forces, Taliban / Daesh forces – funded by drug lords and warlords – began to take over the capitals of all of the major provinces in Afghanistan. country. It is written on the wall that they will take back power and that a second dark era of terrorism will threaten Pakistan as a measure to counter the BRI.
Faced with this new great game, Pakistan must develop ties with the countries of the Golden Ring and forge a bloc to fight against terrorist financing and money launderers (explained in detail in “Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges & Solutions â). There is an urgent need to set up a joint team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Anti-Drug Force (ANF) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to reserve and prosecute men and networks involved in organized crime.
Pakistan has suffered tremendously due to terrorists and drug mafias crippling institutions and bringing millions of young people addicted to drugs. Pakistan has suffered greatly and paid a heavy price in terms of men and materials in the fight against terrorism. Determined and concrete efforts are now needed to destroy the financial channels of organized criminal networks.
We need to make the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) an effective institution like the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK. It is time to assess what happened to the National Action Plan (NAP) and the 29 civil-military wings established in August 2016. These questions and many more must be seriously considered, if we are truly to root out terrorism. , drug trafficking and other organized criminal activity.
The writer is a Supreme Court attorney and assistant professor at LUMS.
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