Pakistan is getting away with murder, FATF must act

Even though the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] plenary virtual meeting to decide whether Pakistan should be excluded from the international terror financing watchdog’s ‘grey list’ is scheduled to be held from 21 to 23 October, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi already seems to be in a celebratory mood. Perhaps that’s why while addressing a public gathering in Multan last Saturday, he confidently announced that “very soon Pakistan will be on the ‘white list’ of the FATF.”

If what Qureshi said is true, then Islamabad needs to be congratulated for being able to exorcise the ghoul of terrorism that had been wreaking havoc both within Pakistan as well as in the neighbourhood for all these years. This would have also meant that Islamabad has ultimately been able to prevail over Rawalpindi to abandon its more than three decades old covert policy of nurturing terrorist groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba as ‘strategic assets’ for waging proxy wars against its neighbours. But since such a drastic turn of events seemed quite unlikely, Qureshi’s unbounded optimism wasn’t shared by many and in the end, the nay-sayers were the ones who were proved right.

Barely two days after Qureshi’s confident announcement, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering [APG] in its first ‘Follow-Up Report on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan’ stated that out of the 40 FATF recommendations, Pakistan was found to be “largely compliant” on nine parameters, “partially compliant” on 25 and “non-compliant” on four. So, since it was “fully complaint” only on one parameter, the APG obviously ruled that anti-money laundering [AML] and counter-terrorist financing [CTF] actions taken by Pakistan are not yet sufficient to justify a re-rating” by FATF. Therefore, the timeline of “very soon” mentioned by Qureshi for making it to the FATF white-list would, at least for now, remain an undetermined variable.

Islamabad’s complaint of being a victim of terrorism is undoubtedly true and so, sympathising with the people of Pakistan who are facing the brunt of vicious terror attacks is but natural. However, without meaning to imply ‘serves them right’, it’s also necessary to highlight the fact that Pakistan is reaping the bitter harvest of its nearly four-decade old vile policy of nurturing terrorist groups for its own self-serving interests and Pakistan’s woes won’t end till this practice continues. Readers would recall that when asked during an interview given to Der Spiegel, “Why did you form militant underground groups to fight India in Kashmir?” Pakistan’s former President and ex-army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf’s nonchalantly replied “They (terrorist groups) were indeed formed.”

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, former Army Chief of Pakistan.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, former President and Army Chief of Pakistan.

But while he acknowledged the military’s role in creating “underground groups to fight India in Kashmir,” Gen Musharraf tried to shift onus for this serious crime against humanity on the legislature by saying, “The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.” However, since these terrorist groups were created when Pakistan was under martial law with Gen Zia ul Haq as the dictator, the ‘government’ that Gen Musharraf so glibly accuses of having had “turned a blind eye” to their creation was none other than the Pakistan Army itself!

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, on the other hand, is busy peddling a sob-story with all the trappings of a magnificent Greek tragedy. His story goes thus: A devil incarnate [America] disguised as a virtuous Angel beguiles an innocent simpleton [named Pakistan] to join him in the fight against an evil entity which the devil identifies as Satan [Russia]. But once his dirty work is done, the devil goes home leaving the poor simpleton with an unmanageable horde of savages [terrorists] that the devil and simpleton had jointly created to defeat Satan. So, while the devil thrives, the savages run riot and make life hell for the poor simpleton and his countrymen. But the unkindest cut comes when the devil callously accuses the simpleton, who is fighting tooth and nail against these savages of “all hue and colour” and making immense sacrifices of “not doing enough” in this war!

So, there was nothing unusual in Khan showing no signs of remorse while admitting during a talk show at the US Institute of Peace in July last year, that “We had created these jihadi groups in the 80s. We had indoctrinated them in the idea of jihad, that foreign occupation in Afghanistan, it was a religious duty to fight them. So, all these groups, including Al-Qaeda, arrived in Pakistan.” He then had the audacity to blame Washington’s post 9/11 anti-terrorism policy for turning terrorist groups against the Pakistan Army by saying that these groups “who had closed ranks for the Pakistan Army because they were created by the Pakistan Army…turned against the Pakistan Army because Pakistan Army was then trying to neutralise them.”

What needs to be highlighted here is that when the Americans wanted ‘mujahideens’ to fight the Russians in Afghanistan in the early 80s, they didn’t have to point a gun at Gen Zia’s head- au contraire, the dictator was so blinded by the lucre of dollars that this Faustian deal would yield that he chose to disregard the numerous negative fallouts of turning Pakistan into a veritable breeding ground for spawning terrorists with a fundamentalist mindset.

So, when the Pakistan Army willingly allowed terrorism to flourish on its soil, why blame the whole world for the sorry state of affairs that subsequently gripped Pakistan? US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remark that “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours; you know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard” aptly sums up the flipside of Rawalpindi’s dangerous obsession of nurturing terrorists.

That even after being given one year at its disposal, Islamabad has only been able to fully comply with one parameter out of the 40 pointed out by FATF, clearly indicates the importance that Pakistan attaches to taking effective AML/CTF actions. Whereas its lackadaisical attitude should have been a matter of grave concern for the international community, but in a world where motivated agendas have replaced core human values of uprightness and integrity, Pakistan knows that on the FATF front there is no further downside.

The saddest part about combatting terror financing is that despite the most conclusive evidence being available, a country flagrantly involved in financing terrorism can escape being blacklisted if it is able to muster support of merely three out of the 39 nation strong FTF member states. So, with China and Turkey ready to extend support to Pakistan as a reward for Islamabad’s willingness to serve as a lackey of these countries, and Malaysia doing likewise just to remain in the good books of Turkey, where’s the need for Pakistan Army to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that serves as its ‘strategic assets’?

Tailpiece: In 2019, while speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, Prime Minister Imran Khan admitted that “we still have about 30,000-40,000-armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.” This revelation raises two questions- one, if Pakistan doesn’t provide safe sanctuary or sustenance to terrorists [as it claims], then how come it has such a mammoth congregation of armed terrorists with combat experienced on its soil? Two, even if we peg the number of these terrorists at 30,000 [the lower end of the figure band indicated by Khan] and fix the daily expenditure on their subsistence at a measly US$ 2 per person, the annual financial outlay on maintaining these terrorists would still amount to a whopping US$ 21.6 million (₹158.6 crore). FATF needs to ask Islamabad the source of such a princely sum of money!

Nilesh Kunwar
Nilesh Kunwar
Writer is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in terrorism-infested areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a 'Kashmir-Watcher' who keeps a close tab on the state's developments.

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