New Delhi: 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 said on Tuesday.
The New York-based startup Castellum, which 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.”
The Imran Khan government removed the names of some people associated with known terrorist group from its watch list around 9 March “without any public explanation, including Zaka ur-Rehman, an alias of the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader and alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks,” the Castellum report quoted by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) said.
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. 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.
According to the FATF, Pakistan’s terrorist watchlist had about 7,600 names in October 2018.
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.
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 IANS report said. 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. 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, that Pakistan has not added the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader to its terrorism watchlist,” the report said.
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,” the IANS report added.