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Imran's gameplay

Imrans gameplay

No matter the ulterior motives behind Pakistan PM's unanticipated statement admitting the presence of 30,000 to 40,000 active militants on his soil, it was pleasant news for India, who has forever been arguing the same, majorly due to being hurt by the activities of the same militants. No one expected Imran Khan to state what he did during his visit. To put facts in line, Imran Khan cited the presence of militants, whose numbers draw a sharp contrast to those mentioned by Pakistan Army in April 2019. Following a crackdown on religious extremist institutions through FATF strictures, the Pakistan Army spokesperson had outrightly denied any presence of terror organisations in the country. However, Imran Khan notified the international community of at least "40 militant groups" active in the period following 9/11. Numbers provided by Khan also failed to match those submitted to FATF by his country and for this, Pakistan certainly has drawn up swords against it in the run-up to the next meeting of FATF in October where it faces the threat of being blacklisted. It can be examined that in Schedule-4 of Pakistan's Anti-terrorism Act, the government was found to have only listed 8,000 active militants. Imran asserted the presence of as many as 40,000, if not more, which is about five times the mentioned number. Five times the number–no matter the expedited recruitment by terror outfits in Afghanistan and Kashmir–cannot be materialised in such a short span. Pakistan lied or its PM lied. Chances of former are higher since intelligence might as well corroborate the fact presented by Imran Khan. This reality, however, does not seem to aid Pakistan much in its deal with FATF. It is implied that Khan's statement regarding the number of militants will draw abject criticism from the international community firstly for concealing the truth, followed by more cause to blacklist Pakistan at FATF meeting in October. But, the pertinent question which pops out of the box is whether PM's statement in front of the international community was to atone to his country's earlier lies and succumb to the FATF pressure or insert a wild card-type move for Pakistan to relay back up, this time with none other than US's support. While the US-visit gave the much-needed boost to bilateral ties between the US and Pakistan, it is yet to be seen what impact would it have over Pakistan's future. Through Imran Khan's visit, Pakistan has surely brought back US attention to its shores; more so with the Afghanistan policy. The convergence of interests of both the US and Pakistan as far as Afghanistan is concerned is important in the wake of ongoing negotiations between the Taliban and the United States; Pakistan can hope to play a central figure in these negotiations. Afghanistan issue indeed has the capacity to bring back Pakistan and the United States on regular terms with the latter resuming military exercises that it had curbed last year along with security assistance. It is to be acknowledged that US's interests will be better served through outright cooperation from Pakistan than through a rough patch–as was on display since last year. But, what Pakistan hopes to take away from Khan's visit is the acknowledgement for honesty and support thereafter. It must not be forgotten that Pakistan remains under tremendous financial stress and Imran Khan has been doing whatever he can to rescue Pakistan from the shambolic economic status it was in when he assumed office. Under the vigilance of anti-terror financing watchdog FATF, Pakistan's compliance with FATF's Action Plan is the only way for the country to avoid getting blacklisted. Last time around, its all-weather friend China, as well as two more allies, came to its rescue when India and the others had assumed the adamant stance of blacklisting Pakistan and thereby isolating it from the global economy. Since then, Pakistan has been wary of the dangers that lie ahead if it does not live up to its commitments–curbing terror financing on its soil.

Irrespective of the honesty on display by Khan over the presence of militants, India would not shy from offering a mention of this fact that seems to have violated FATF's confidence. For long, India has suffered the brunt of these terror outfits operating from Pakistani soil. Even in Khan's term, the Pulwama carnage is a testament to this. Khan's acceptance of a fact India has been always assured of is definitely a step in the right direction. But acceptance alone will not yield the desired results of global peace and anti-terror environment. Pakistan has to do more. Hafiz Saeed's arrest was also a positive sign but his constant bails only signify lapse of commitment upon which Pakistan must dedicatedly build in order to avoid embarrassment at the FATF meeting. It would be interesting to see how Khan's US card plays for an embattled Pakistan in the FATF gathering, given how US's support and endorsement for Pakistan's stance on anti-terrorism can turn the tables!

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