With its economy in tatters, a frustrated Pakistani Government is desperately seeking Bharat’s help to get out of its economic morass, even as it tries to hoodwink the international community by stage-managing its terror infrastructure of Islamic fundamentalists
The biggest nightmare for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF is a Paris-based inter-governmental body that sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. On the basis of its assessments, the institution puts rogue nations on the “Grey List” and very serious cases on the “Black List.” There are no direct legal implications from being on the lists. It, however, does, subject the listed nations to extra scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions that can adversely impact trade and financial health of a country.
Pakistan was placed on the grey list in 2018. The Pulwama terror attack a few days before the meeting of the FATF led to intense speculation about Pakistan being put on the black list. Imran Khan exhibited a rare energy in his diplomatic attempt to remain afloat, since blacklisting would have driven the last nail on the teetering economy of Pakistan with international aid being all but choked.
The FATF gave Pakistan a new lease of life by continuing its position on the grey list but with a proviso that a reassessment will be carried out in June this year. Thus, Imran Khan got some relief but Damocles’ sword continues to hang on his head giving him the nightmares A few days before the FATF was to convene, the Government of Pakistan banned the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. The Punjab government took control of the Hudabia Madrassa, which has 300 students, and four dispensaries in Rawalpindi. Yet, the government gave no clarity about the action it would take against Hafiz Saeed, who is a designated terrorist with a $10 million bounty on his head.
Pakistan also decided to upgrade a group of banned outfits including the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) to the high risk category. This would entail deep monitoring and re-examining of their activities in accordance with the standards set by the FATF. Notably, JeM has taken responsibility for the Pulwama terrorist attack and India has asked Pakistan to ban the organization and hand over its leader, Maulana Masood Azar, to face trial for his crimes. The FATF gave Pakistan a new lease of life by continuing its position on the grey list but with a proviso that a reassessment will be carried out in June this year. Thus, Imran Khan got some relief but Damocles’ sword continues to hang on his head giving him the nightmares.
Imran Khan is also aware that India is responsible to a great extent for the precarious position in the FATF. It is for this reason that he has launched an aggressive diplomatic initiative to get India back on the negotiating table now that the Narendra Modi Government has taken oath for a second term. Twice in a period of two weeks, the premier of Pakistan has made an offer for resumption of talks between the two countries. On May 26, when a massive mandate for the BJP and allies heralded a second term for Modi, Imran Khan called Modi to congratulate him expressing his desire to work towards, “advancing the objective of peace, progress, and prosperity in South Asia.” Prime Minister Modi graciously accepted the felicitations but did not invite Khan to his swearing-in ceremony on May 30.
Undeterred by the snub, Imran Khan shot off another letter to Prime Minister Modi on June 7 in which he said Islamabad wants talks with New Delhi to resolve all reconcilable problems, including Kashmir. Earlier in the day, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also wrote to his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, along similar lines. Both initiatives have been leaked to the media obviously with the intention of gaining some brownie points with the international diplomatic community.
Alongside, Pakistan is attempting to create a perception that the Modi government in India is perceived to have a communal and right-wing character which is the reason behind its refusal to take up the offer for talks. Once the results of the Indian Parliamentary election were declared, a prominent English daily of Pakistan, Dawn, in an editorial, termed it a victory of communal politics. “For the world’s largest democracy, the writing is on the wall: communal politics in India has triumphed in an age that will define the future of the republic,” it wrote. “Notably, the months leading up to Mr Modi’s campaign were marked by anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rants, with India going so far as to escalate tensions by conducting air strikes inside Pakistan in order to whip up nationalist sentiment,’ it added.
Predictably, India rejected Pakistan’s offer for talks maintaining that terror and talks cannot go together. This was reason enough for yet another English daily of Pakistan, the Express Tribune to launch a vicious attack against the Indian government. “Despite having a clear mandate after his landslide election win, Modi seems increasingly disinterested in doing something that would be in the interest of India, Pakistan and the world—mostly because it would go against his brand of Hindu nationalism around a muscular defence of national security, and would infuriate his far-right base. Maybe India doesn’t feel that now is the time to make peace. But the Pulwama experience should serve as a reminder that at some point, the finger-wagging has to stop,” stated the newspaper in an editorial.
The aforementioned editorials are the true summary of how the country and its government actually look at the Modi government; everything else is posturing and playing to the gallery with the immediate objective being breaking of the stranglehold of the FATF.
Pakistan is continuing with its attempts to place itself on a high moral pedestal in the global arena not realising that the international community is as exasperated with its constant double-speak. The international community is also very worried about the impact of the breeding of violence in Pakistan on the world at large. The sooner Pakistan realises that it’s policy of double standard severely constraints any honest effort towards addressing the challenge of terrorism the better would be its chances of tackling the same and getting on to the right side of the global order, which includes India. A failure to do so will result in its entering the black list of the FATF sooner than later and will convert it into an international pariah.
The best option for Pakistan would be to free itself from its self-destructive path before it is too late. There is only one factor that is coming in its way from doing so and that is the need to feed terrorism in Kashmir. It is reluctant to touch many terrorist organisations operating on its soil that deal with Kashmir. It now remains to be seen if Pakistan can read the writing on the wall and mend its ways before it is too late.
(The writer is a reputed expert in geo-politics and security)