Pakistan quietly removes 4,000 from its terrorist watchlist: Report

GS Paper III

Topic: International relations, Terrorism and Security

Mains: Impact of being blacklisted by Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

What’s the News?

Pakistan has quietly removed the names of around 4,000 terrorists from its watchlist, including one of the main plotters of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, a news report quoting data from an Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup.

Background:

  • Due to Pakistan’s long association with terrorist groups and terrorist financing besides fomenting terrorism in India and other parts of the world, it has been placed on the “gray list” of the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for terror funding.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body that works to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

Impact of being blacklisted:

Pakistan’s $6 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be threatened.

Pakistan faces an estimated annual loss of $10 billion if it stays in the greylist; if blacklisted, its already fragile economy will dealt with a powerful blow.

  • According to the FATF, Pakistan’s terrorist watchlist had about 7,600 names in October 2018.
  • At its meeting in October last year, the FATF noted that Islamabad had addressed only 14 points out of 27 conditions to get off the grey list.
  • At another meeting in Paris in February, Pakistan had been warned again to improve its performance that is to be evaluated in June once again.
  • But between 9-27 March, Castellum’s data showed that the Imran Khan government removed more than 1,000 names from the Proscribed Persons List and all those names then appeared on Pakistan’s official denotified list. Since 27 March, another 800 names had been removed.

The New York-based startup Castellum:

It automates compliance of countries placed on watch lists for their terrorist related activities, has found that in the past 18 months, Pakistan has deleted 3,800 names from the Proscribed Persons List “without explanation or notification to the public.

Artificial intelligence and terrorism:

  • To ensure that the AI looked at only the most likely cases where internationally listed terrorists were removed, the startup first downloaded the official Denotified List and then screened the names against its watchlist database.
  • The AI also ensured that the name, if not exact, matches an official alias. For example, Zaka Ur Rehman, who is more commonly known as Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi, but has an official alias ‘Zaki Ur Rehman” the report said. Lakhvi is seen as one of the major plotters of the Mumbai terror attacks.
  • In the case of Zaka Ur Rehman, the difference between Zaka and Zaki fits within the parameters of an accurate phonetic translation.
  • AI also searched for the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader’s full name, Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi, on the Pakistan Proscribed Persons list, and he was not on the list.
  • This means that if the removed name is a false positive, that Pakistan has not added the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader to its terrorism watchlist.

Pakistan explanation:

  • Pakistan’s countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) lead, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), has provided no explanation for removal of the names.
  • Last week, a news report in Pakistan said that the names were removed because the list has been bloated up to 7,000 names with multiple inaccuracies such as the names of dead individuals, Afghan nationals, untraceable names without proper identifiers.

What makes COVID-19 deadly are co-morbidities, lack of hygiene and distancing

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and technology

Mains: Indian strength in controlling covid-19

What’s the News?

  • As we remain under lockdown, it is vital that all Indians display cooperation to show the world that we can defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, just as we eradicated smallpox and polio.
  • Every citizen must follow physical distancing for at least the next year and maintain hygiene, especially in terms of handwashing and/or using hand sanitiser.
  • Indians may have the BCG vaccine and inbuilt/innate immunity as an advantage, but we are allowing these gains to be frittered away because of our poor hygiene.

Indian strength:

  • Indians have robust inbuilt immunity thanks to the country’s adverse environment but that needs to now be built upon through lifestyle-related measures. Indian cuisine is rich in spices and condiments.
  • Protein-rich and traditional diets, which every community possesses, are the best option in the current circumstances.
  • There are exercises that can be performed while being locked in — yoga, pranayama, surya namaskars and even simple sit-ups can help build our muscles to fight the virus.
  • Studies have repeatedly shown that adequate sleep — for eight hours — helps fight respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

This is also the ideal time to give up addictions to tobacco and alcohol. Hot-water gargles multiple times a day, avoiding refrigerated food as well as opening windows for fresh air is vital for health.

New about COVID-19:

  • It spreads through airborne microdroplets, which are released via speaking, spitting, coughing and sneezing.
  • So, covering our faces, noses and mouths with a cloth or mask and wearing glasses is the key to breaking the chain of transmission.
  • We now also know that the gut is the second site of virus transmission and, therefore, clean toilets are the order of the day.
  • Surfaces which we touch may be a source of transmission for the virus but this can be addressed by sanitiser and soap.

Protecting vulnerable people:

  • The greatest need is to protect those belonging to vulnerable groups from the virus. These include senior citizens, those with hypertension or other heart conditions, those with lung or kidney disease and others whose immunity may be low due to disease or medication like steroids.
  • Such people need to remain home-bound and should be treated like VVIPs — served and cared for like never before, while maintaining hygiene and distancing. At any sign of poor health, they must be rushed to the nearest healthcare facility.
  • Ensure you connect with your healthcare providers digitally, avoid crowding at hospitals for routine care as the lockdown ends and emergency medical care continues.

Co-morbidies:

  • Coronavirus does not kill by itself. The co-morbidities, delays in test and a lack of access to care are what will lead to deaths, especially when it comes to people from the vulnerable groups.
  • India is the world capital for the manufacture of generic medicines and we must allow Indian innovators to rapidly make antiviral medicines and vaccines.
  • In an emergency, like the current pandemic, patent rules can be tweaked temporarily to save lives.

Key to conquering virus:

  • The key to successfully conquering the coronavirus is early detection, isolation and prompt treatment to delay the “lung storm” (called cytokines storms).
  • Treatment can also be done with simple medicines like hydroxychloroquine as well as through simple strategies like oxygenation and transfusions in later stages.
  • India may not have sufficient ventilators but we have one of the best-trained medical forces. We have a large supply of oxygen, blood and clinical doctors and nurses to fight complications.

Steps needed:

  • This is an ideal time to have private-public partnerships in healthcare and it’s only matter of time before we sail out of this pandemic.
  • Food and shelter for all is a need for all Indians and governments must ensure rations reach everyone.
  • Crowded clusters like slums urgently need mass prophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine on an experimental basis, as distancing is impossible in such areas.
  • Through this, the virus load will be reduced in the community and lives will be saved.

Conclusion:

  • Rumour mongering and cybercrime is on the rise and we will need new laws to be enacted soon to address these.
  • We need a positive attitude to avoid corona anxiety, predominantly generated by electronic gadgets.
  • We must have at least two hours a day free of screens. For better health, there’s always a smile, music and meditation.