The tendency of a government to shirk responsibility by blaming others for its own failures may calm the frayed nerves of those at the helm of affairs by giving them the feeling that ‘all is well’. However, just like opiate consumption, reality denial too causes absolute disassociation with ground realities and invariably leaves those who run the government completely unprepared to face any adverse situation.
This is precisely the reason why despite its claim of having the best intelligence agency as well as finest troops in the world who have undertaken large scale anti-terrorist operations like ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ [2014-2017] and ‘Raad-ul-Fasaad’ [which commenced in 2017 and is still continuing], Islamabad hasn’t been able to curb terrorist activities and last Friday’s suicide bombing of a mosque in Peshawar in which 62 worshippers were killed and nearly 200 injured is the latest case in point.
Immediately after this dastardly act, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed tried to absolve himself and his ministry by saying “No threat alert was received . . . we had a meeting a couple of days ago but no threat was received; we had no information about it”. With this highly irresponsible statement, hasn’t the honourable Interior Minister indirectly [but categorically] conveyed to the people that the government of Pakistan can protect its citizens from terrorist attacks only when it has been forewarned?
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain went a step further by claiming that “The Peshawar [Mosque] blast is part of a larger conspiracy aimed at undermining our efforts to bring stability to Pakistan”. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi too blamed “ . . . forces [who] don’t want to see Pakistan’s economy taking off [and] the simplest way to block this growth is to create uncertainty in the country”. With such bizarre replies emanating from those holding responsible portfolios in the government, isn’t it abundantly clear that Islamabad decidedly revels in reality denial?
On the very day that the Tehreek-e-Taliban [TTP] suicide bomber blew himself inside the packed Peshawar Mosque, international money laundering and terrorist funding watchdog Financial Action Task Force [FATF] announced Pakistan’s retention on its grey list. Pakistan’s Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin maintaining that “The FATF decision is politically motivated and it was taken under the influence of some powerful nations to pressurise Pakistan over its strategic policy decisions”, clearly reflects Islamabad’s obdurate mindset that simply refuses to gracefully accept reality.
Islamabad knew very well that it would be retained on FATF’s grey list. That’s why, two days before FATF was scheduled to commence its deliberations, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson claimed that Islamabad had “faithfully complied with and completed all technical requirements [as demanded by FATF]”, and hoped that “the outcome would be in the positive direction”. However, by adding that “there are issues of politicisation [of FATF] by some countries, and that remains a problem”, he had adroitly prepared his countrymen for the obvious outcome!
But what the government of Pakistan didn’t tell its people was that the US Department of Financial Services had already established beyond any doubts that the New York [NY] branch of National Bank of Pakistan [NBP] had “continued to conduct business in an unsafe and unsound manner, disregarded numerous financial regulatory warnings” as well as had “failed to maintain effective and compliant anti-money laundering program”, due to which it had been fined US$ 35 million. The fact that NBP’s New York branch continued to disregard “numerous financial warnings” clearly indicates that these lapses weren’t inadvertent aberrations but intentional acts, and this is really disconcerting.
Islamabad’s willingness to “resolve the matters [related to SBP’s financial irregularities] . . . without further proceedings” by deciding to pay this monstrous fine is an unambiguous admission of guilt and makes light of Pakistan’s claim of being a “responsible country”. It also exposes Islamabad’s enduring duplicity on the issue of tackling terrorist financing. Nevertheless, Islamabad still chooses to remain in denial.
Such is the state of its denial that even after being retained on the grey list by FATF, instead of introspecting on the terror financing watchdog’s observation, the Pakistani establishment and media are actually celebrating this development. This they are doing by hyping what FATF has observed as Pakistan’s “significant progress” while underplaying the “serious deficiencies” brought out by the international terror funding watchdog. The FATF has noted Pakistan’s dismal performance as far as “TF [terror financing] investigations and prosecutions” is concerned, as well as its failure to “target senior leaders and commanders of UN designated terrorist groups” [Emphasis added].
So, in case it seriously wants to rid Pakistan of terrorism, then Islamabad has no other choice but to ruthlessly crackdown on terrorist groups across the board without making any exceptions. While former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s observation that the Peshawar Mosque attack would not have happened if “nurseries of terrorism had been destroyed” being an afterthought, is debatable, but its underlying message that terrorism will not end till selectivity in dealing with terrorist groups continues, is a reality, which Pakistan can deny only at its own peril!