Islamabad [Pakistan], April 21 (ANI): Pakistan, which has been long accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, has removed about 1,800 names from its terrorist watchlist including of 2008 Mumbai Terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi since March 9, according to data collected by Castellum.AI, a New York-based regulatory technology company.
"Pakistan removed about 1,800 names from its terrorist watchlist since March 9th without any public explanation, including Zaka ur Rehman, an alias of the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader and alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks," reads a statement dated April 20 on the company's website.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the list which in 2018 contained 7,600 names has been reduced to under 3,800 in the past 18 months. No public explanation was given for the removal, but a Pakistani official said in an email interview that they are part of the country's ongoing efforts to comply with a commitment to strengthen its counterterrorism safeguards, the report said.
The so-called proscribed persons list is maintained by Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
The developments come ahead of a new round of assessment by a global anti-money-laundering watchdog.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had in February this year, expressed concern over Pakistan's failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines against terror financing and had "strongly urged" Islamabad to complete its full action plan by 2020. The Paris-based watchdog is scheduled to evaluate Pakistan's progress in June this year, although measures intended to stop the spread of coronavirus could delay it.
The WSJ report quoted Peter Piatetsky, a former senior policy adviser for the US Treasury and co-founder of Castellum.AI, as saying that the size and speed of removal are unusual.
A Pakistani official said the list had become "bloated with multiple inaccuracies" because it contained names of individuals who had died and those who may have committed crimes but weren't associated with a designated terrorist group.
A FATF spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.
Several of the names removed from Pakistan's list appear to be aliases for designated terrorists listed on US or United Nations sanctions lists, according to Castellum.AI.
Listing the several steps that it took to ensure that it looked at only the most likely cases where internationally listed terrorists were removed, the statement on website of Castellum.AI said: "Ensuring that the name, if not exact, matches an official alias. This is the case with Zaka Ur Rehman, who is more commonly known as Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi, but who has an official alias noted by the US, UN, EU and others of Zaki Ur Rehman."
"In the case of Zaka Ur Rehman, the difference between Zaka and Zaki fits within the parameters of an accurate phonetic translation. Castellum.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, then Pakistan has not added the Lashkar E Taiba leader to its terrorism watchlist," it added.
Pakistan has long faced criticism for supporting terrorist organisations, which operate from its soil. (ANI)