- Three month reprieve for Pakistan
Irrespective of which of the nations won us breathing space of three months to put certain mechanisms in place to avoid being put on terror financing list — Pakistan must understand that the US-Indian driven strategy does have the backing of most developed states. Policies need to be revisited in light of the changing geo political situation and alliances. It will be foolish on part of Pakistan to base its policies on grounds of old realities or support of a “friendly state” indefinitely in a hostile global environment.
It is an unfortunate trait of Pakistan’s policies that are mostly reactive, rather than well thought out and in line with national interests. Getting off the hook, temporarily, with a three month reprieve over terrorist financing watch-list at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris is a sad reflection on the rudderless state of lack of strategic governance in Pakistan.
USA under Trump has picked out only one reason for her troubles in Afghanistan. That trouble is called Pakistan. The US under Trump through this approach has decided to come after Pakistan. The changing geo-political nexus with the US seen to be siding openly with India and literally foul-mouthing Pakistan publicly is the ‘new US tactic’ (Reference Trump’s tweet on January 1st 2018). China’s commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and by extension China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), designed not only to excel its outreach to the world but also to gain a stronger regional foothold, is crystal clear.
This rise of China is something the US has feared and would like to delay as much as it can. The ambitious posture of China gives rise to a fundamental question: whether it will be China or the US that determines the rules for trade and investments in the decades to come.
There is no time to sit back and pat ourselves on our backs for escaping the axe. The axe may still fall if Pakistan fails to seriously address the issues raised
Geo-politics aside, the limelight cannot be drawn away from Pakistan’s abject failure at devising policies to any area of domestic or international policies. On September 28, 2016, the White House office of the press secretary released statement by NSC spokesperson Ned Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s call with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India that reads as follows:
“National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice spoke today by phone with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Ambassador Rice strongly condemned the September 18 cross-border attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and offered condolences to the victims and their families. Ambassador Rice affirmed President Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world. Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimise United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates. In the context of the robust US-India partnership, Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursuing peace and regional stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counterterrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations.”
It was interesting to note that the term “cross-border terrorism” was used twice – once in context of Uri Army Base attack. Without any prior investigation conducted, it was strange for the US to issue such a serious statement. On September 21, 2016 The Economic Times, India, stated undertaking of DNA test from slain four militants by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It states and I quote, “We are examining all possibilities and role of an insider cannot be ruled out,” says a senior NIA official adding that the four militants had some local support that may have been arranged by their handlers. The same source goes on to state that, “Agency sources say that NIA would adopt a two-pronged strategy to investigate the case. One to find out how the army lines were breached and the other whether there were insiders passing on crucial information to the enemy. The second would be to look into the perpetrators of the attack. Is it possible that the militants received local support using which they managed to gain entry into the airbase by cutting barbed wire,” the official said.
Another report by The Indian Express, dated September 22, 2016, states, “Officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing Sunday’s terror attack on the army camp in Uri which left 18 soldiers dead, believe that the terrorists spent at least a day in the mountains above the brigade headquarters complex, observing their target.” The same source goes on to state, “Investigation sources said their hopes of proving that the terrorists began their journey in Pakistan now rest on retrieving data from a damaged Global Positioning System (GPS) set recovered from the attack site.”
Note that sources quoted are September 21 and September 22 respectively whereas The White House Statement is released on September 28 when the investigation was neither complete nor were the reports.
Note also needs to be made that this aggressive stance ignoring the vested interests of different stake holders in Afghanistan is only one aspect of the issue. The other is Pakistan’s poor diplomacy and failure in making her narrative acceptable to a global market in spite of her tremendous sacrifices in WoT and erosion of her social fabric owing to influx of Afghan refugees and spread of militancy within the borders. The civil mechanisms of putting NAP in place too, were not taken seriously.
Pakistan had two options on which to build her strategy on, including a) making a strong statement that the country have banned stated organisations as well as individuals associated with them, arrested some, placing them under trial while seizing their assets and, b) stating categorically that these outfits are charity organisations working for welfare of the people and not even remotely associated with terrorist activities, presenting facts and data to the effect. There was no third option.
Acting Secretary of State Alice Wells stated as per Reuters report that the desire to place Pakistan on the list was only partly due to Pakistan failure to take stringent actions against the head of JuD Hafiz Saeed, which Washington feels is a cover up in garb of charity for Lashkar-e-Taiba a military group. Also as per Reuters, the international community continues to have concerns about deficiencies in Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing system.
According to a report, Pakistan has registered 438 cases against affiliated individuals associated in past six months. Collecting of hides has been strictly banned. Cases against eight of JuD and FIF have been registered besides freezing accounts of proscribed persons named in Schedule-4 of ATA 1997. Pakistan also rushed into correcting the anti-terror law pre-FTAF meeting in Paris.
There is no time to sit back and pat ourselves on our backs for escaping the axe. The axe may still fall if Pakistan fails to seriously address the issues raised. Pakistan is already facing a cut back in military aid for failing to crack down on Haqqani network.
“Direct and indirect support to non-state actors, howsoever useful they may be, is against the basic tenet of statehood. By allowing such groups to operate and build local support, Pakistan’s ruling elites are only damaging the long-term prospects of the country,” says Raza Rumi in his recent op-ed. Yes, we also saw how the country was made hostage in Faaizabad dharna. This mindset is an outcome of flourishing nurseries and groups operating within Pakistan under different pretexts.
Being placed on a terror funding watch list will have serious repercussions of its own. Such an act will cut through the few banking links Pakistan has in the world. This is not just about “arranging funds from friend states” but about the image of Pakistan worldwide and the dignity of every Pakistani.