The Federal government has amended the Anti-Terrorism Act to ban those listed as terrorists by the United Nations, a move which makes it possible for Islamabad to proceed against suspected masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The amendments were passed through ordinance approved by President Mamnoon Hussain.

This move finally makes clear the government’s stance on Hafiz Saeed, a position that had been ambiguous for some time, as there was little action taken by the ECP against the independent candidates from his party, Jamat-ud-Dawa (JUD).

While on paper, this is a good step, but in all honesty, it is more of a symbolic gesture than anything else to show that we are compliant with the UN. Pakistan has treated Hafiz Saeed with an opportunistic gaze, and there are several signs that show that the ordinance is mere perfunctory

This banning comes right before the crucial Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris. The FATF maintains grey and black lists for identifying countries with weak measures to combat money laundering and terror financing. With United States’ constant warnings that Pakistan is not doing enough to curb terrorism, and is harbouring safe havens for terrorists will propel the FATF to focus on Pakistan. Certainly, extremist candidates contesting in elections would not have looked good, and so this move was crucial for Pakistan to pass its compliance tests.

It is understandable that the government does not want to raise controversy locally by targeting Hafiz Saeed; however it is dire time to apply the laws in practical ground. This ordinance will give legitimacy to our law enforcement agencies (LEA) to move more forcibly against these groups, but unless the LEAs and the government have the will to do that, putting mere names on lists will not help. It would also help if parliamentarians showed political will and passed these laws in parliament, than through ordinances.