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Recipe for disaster


July 8, 2018

In view of our deteriorating relations with the US and its continued strategy to keep Pakistan under pressure, notwithstanding the fact that the latter has taken indiscriminate action against all terrorist outfits based in North Waziristan and has suffered the most in the war on terror, it was expected that the US would use its influence on international organisations such as the FATF to keep Pakistan on tenterhooks.

This is exactly what happened in the meeting in Paris that concluded on June 29. The FATF decided to put Pakistan on the grey list and handed down a list of 26 demands to be acted upon until the next meeting, scheduled for September 2019. The motion sponsored by the US was voted upon by 37 countries. The FATF decision, besides being a political embarrassment for Pakistan, is likely to have financial and economic implications.

As per the new demands, Pakistan is expected to curb currency smuggling by terrorist groups across the Afghan border, ban certain groups and freeze their accounts, as well as ensure compliance with international standards for every banking transaction. The reality is that Pakistan has been a sincere partner in the war on terror and has not only dismantled the infrastructure of terrorist outfits, but has also been faithfully engaged in eliminating the remnants of their supporters within the country.

The PML-N government had seized the offices and bank accounts of militant groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and also banned them. Pakistan took all possible administrative and legal measures to check and block the sources of funding to terrorist organisations. The country also promulgated a presidential ordinance to amend the anti-terror legislation in order to include all the UN-listed individuals and groups in its own list of proscribed outfits and people. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also took measures in keeping with the FATF regulations and on June 20, issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2018.

The previous government had also chalked out a comprehensive plan to eradicate terrorist financing which was shared with the international watchdog. Pakistan has also been cooperating with the FATF and an assurance was also extended to it by the finance minister which enjoyed the backing of the National Security Council. The FATF’s decision is reflective of the US rhetoric of ‘do more’. It is also indicative of the extent of influence the US can exercise on world bodies like the FATF.

It would perhaps be pertinent to point out that, in addition to taking legal and administrative measures to squeeze the sources of funding to terrorist outfits, the previous government through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had been running a campaign to educate people about exercising utmost discretion about the credentials of the charities and organisations they were donating to. This has had quite an impact.

The misgivings being expressed regarding Pakistan’s commitment are logically and factually wrong. The scourge of terrorism has affected Pakistan more than any other country in terms of human and economic losses. So, logically speaking, the continued scepticism expressed by the US, its allies and the international agencies under their influence is not justified. Pakistan will be the last country to not take all possible measures to get rid of the menace of terrorism and choke the sources of funding of terrorist outfits. Pakistan is doing all of this to protect its own interests and does not need to be coerced or intimidated by any international agency or power to do so.

The pressure being exerted on Pakistan is also factually wrong in view of the operations that it has carried out in North Waziristan, and its unilateral decision to fence the Pak-Afghan border to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists. Our record of promoting an Afghan-led reconciliation in Afghanistan also bears testimony to our sincerity and commitment to tackle terrorism and ending the conflict in Afghanistan.

The US and its allies, instead of blaming Pakistan for their failures in Afghanistan, need to review their own policies and actions that are responsible for their failure to establish peace in Afghanistan and eliminate terrorists from the region. If the US is really interested in eliminating terrorism and feels that Pakistan has a vital role in that regard, then it has to adopt a realistic approach. Instead of unnecessarily putting Pakistan under pressure, the US should accept the ground realities and assist the former in its efforts to eliminate terrorism. It is a fight that can be won only through collective efforts and commitment of the international community including the US.

The US president’s new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia is a perfect recipe for disaster. It will intensify the conflict in Afghanistan, as is evident from the exponential increase in attacks by the Taliban and their affiliate bodies ever since the policy was announced. If the US and its allies expect Pakistan to play a role they shall also have to be mindful of its strategic interests and remove the spectre of scepticism and mistrust against it.

Successfully blocking sources of terrorist funding highly depends on reaching a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. So long as the war in Afghanistan continues, the terrorist outfits will find new ways of gathering finances. One must not forget that there are thousands of supporters of the terrorists’ narrative on both sides of the border, which complicates efforts.

Eliminating terrorism and squeezing the funding of terrorist organisations will need time, collective patience and recognition of the existing ground realities. Choosing Pakistan as the fall guy and keeping it under pressure is not going to resolve the issue. The US and its allies need to revisit their approach and stance towards Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]

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