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Pakistan Approves New Terrorist Funding Measures - 2004-01-11

Pakistan is moving to toughen laws against the financing of terrorist groups, setting stricter punishments and banking regulations.

Pakistan's cabinet decided Saturday to amend the country's 1997 anti-terrorism statutes, focusing on funding issues.

Provisions include doubling the maximum jail term for convicted terrorist financiers to 10 years, denying bail for those accused of helping fund terror groups and requiring banks to keep more detailed records on both clients and employees.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says the amendments are in response to recent United Nations resolutions calling for stronger action against the sources of terrorist funds.

The move also follows an agreement last week at the South Asian regional summit to break up terrorist financial networks.

Pakistani political commentator and former ambassador, Tanvir Ahmed Khan, says the problem began in the 1980s when Pakistan became a center for funds flowing to Afghan militants fighting the former Soviet Union. He says, since then, Pakistani courts have been lax in administering justice for terror funding.

"Even when the terrorists were apprehended, the courts of law very often let them off," he explained. "So I think the need for stronger legislation was there even before 9/11 and before the Security Council resolutions."

Ambassador Ahmed says some of the measures amount to new restrictions on certain civil liberties and legal rights. But he says, given the current global increase in terrorism, the amendments are probably necessary.