Police in Pakistan's capital are investigating banners that were put up on behalf of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a U.N.- and U.S.-designated terror group, that urged residents in Islamabad to donate money for Muslims in Myanmar and Syria.
The banners appeared near a mosque in the capital last week, days after the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued a directive barring groups placed on the U.N. Security Council's and Pakistan's terror watch list from collecting funds or arranging any political, social, welfare or religious gatherings in the country.
"The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan hereby prohibits all companies from donating cash to the entities and individuals listed under the UNSC sanctions committee's consolidated list," the SECP's directive read. Failure to obey the order could lead to legal consequences, including a fine of up to $90,000, it said.
There are concerns that the terror groups are collecting money to fund militant acts inside Pakistan and in neighboring countries, including India and Afghanistan.
Some experts maintain that the SECP's directive will have little impact unless militant groups such as JuD are directly scrutinized and held accountable for continuing to raise money, despite the government's warnings.
"It is a tradition in Pakistan, and such banners and signs appear mysteriously overnight, [posted] by unknown people on behalf of militant groups," Hasan Askari Rizvi, a security analyst from Pakistan, told VOA. "They should be held accountable for violating the law."
With a Security Council team scheduled to visit Pakistan this month, Rizvi said, "it will be highly critical for the government to take strict actions against U.N.-designated terrorist outfits."
Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity organization, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), are considered terrorist organizations by the U.N. and the U.S. State Department.
Muhammad Taqi, a U.S.-based South Asian analyst, said he believed that any negative reactions from the visiting U.N. team could add to the country's difficulties with Washington. The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would suspend military aid to Pakistan until Islamabad took "decisive action" against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
"Pakistan will have to take concrete steps to seize JuD's charities and financial assets to assure the U.N. and the U.S. that it is crushing the militants and choking their money supply," Taqi said.
Militant groups in Pakistan reportedly collect donations under the guise of religion and welfare for the poor, and instead use the money to fund terrorism.
Abdul Qayyum, a senator from the country's ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told VOA the recent directive from SECP "is aimed at barring the proscribed groups, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, from collecting funds in the name of mosques, charity or madrassas [seminaries]."
"It's a step taken in the larger national interest," Qayyum stressed, adding that the government was serious about cracking down on fundraising by these banned groups.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led by Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has expressed its dissatisfaction with the government's recent announcement and said it would take the matter to court.
"There are clear rulings of the Lahore High Court and Supreme Court that JuD is free to continue its welfare activities in Pakistan. Yet the government still pulls such stunts for the appeasement of India," JuD's spokesperson, Yahya Mujahid, told reporters.
JuD is largely believed to be the front organization for Saeed's Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), a militant group that is a proponent of liberating Indian-administered Kashmir and its subsequent merger with Pakistan.
LeT was designated a terrorist group by the United Nations in 2005 and is also designated as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department.
Lack of enforcement
Regional analysts, such as Taqi, maintain that many militant groups, including JuD, have been able to gather funds across the country and will continue to operate with impunity in the absence of serious government action.
"The government has made such announcements in the past, too, but unfortunately we didn't see a forceful implementation," Taqi said.
"The question is whether the civilian government will be able to act against Hafiz Saeed's charity network when they're already paving their way into the political sphere of the country," Taqi said, referring to the Milli Muslim League (MML), a political party established in August 2017 by Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
However, MML has yet to succeed in registering as a political party to enter upcoming state and provincial elections, because Pakistan's Election Commission last year rejected the party's registration application, citing its alleged terror links.
VOA Urdu's Shahnaz Nafees contributed to this report.