Litany of failures
Pakistan’s continued greylisting by FATF is certain to push the already cornered nation into further acts of desperation and hypocrisy
In a major setback to Pakistan, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in a significant decision taken on February 20 in Paris, has retained Pakistan in its grey list position. This move dashed all hopes of Pakistan that it would be upgraded to a more respectable grade for having claimed to have put in extra labour to take action against perpetrators of terror links and terror funding. It's diplomacy also failed miserably when no country other than Turkey, supported Pakistan.
Most damaging for Pakistan was the role of China which, contrary to Pakistan's expectations, joined India, Saudi Arabia, US and several other European countries in prevailing over FATF to see that Pakistan remains in the grey list. Coincidentally, FATF Chairman, Xiangmin Lin, gave a strong message to Pakistan that it hasn't done enough to curb terror funding or other acts related to the menace of terrorism. It also was stern in its tenor that all FATF commitments were to be met by June 2020 to get rid of the grey label.
This latest development has surprised many as Pakistan's fair-weather friend, China too has apparently shifted its stance and supported other countries to decide that the status quo remained unchanged for Pakistan. However, China didn't shy away from comforting Pakistan. This was visible when on February 20, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at length agreeing to further strengthen their bilateral strategic cooperative partnership. In the same vein, China heaped praises on Pakistan for taking enormous efforts to contain terror activities on its soil. Analytically, it would seem that China didn't want to be seen to be openly favouring Pakistan on sensitive issues like terror financing and possibly wanted to be part of an international consensus on this matter. That's why we see that the FATF finding notwithstanding, China overtly remains warm to Pakistan. Hence, damage control was carried out. But the damage is done. Indian diplomacy has paid off when it's hectic parleys with all the countries yielded results in forming a right public opinion exposing Pakistan's state support to terror activities. That aside, Pakistan's game of getting Hafiz Sayeed and his aide convicted didn't help as much in substance was left unfulfilled to meet the requirements laid down by the FATF.
Dwelling on the conviction of Hafiz Sayeed, it would appear interesting to read an article in the newspaper Dawn on February 22 penned by none other than noted physicist and columnist, Pervez Hoodbhoy. He says the punishment awarded by the anti-terror court was not because Hafiz 'deserved' it but because this was part of a design to help Pakistan in being kept off the blacklist by the FATF. The learned security analyst has also questioned the timing of Hafiz's conviction.
Another important feature was Saudi Arabia going against Pakistan. Pakistan has always been claiming that Riyadh was a true friend but that has been proved wrong. Pakistan remains subservient to Saudi domination fearing that any stifling in its economic aid might further reinforce Pakistan's financial slowdown.
Reverting to the role of China on being supportive of the FATF declaration, it is glaringly obvious that Pakistan polity and the media are playing down this disastrous development as far as possible. This is due to the fact that it's impossible or inconvenient for the larger Pakistani mindset to see its friend China going against its interests. Some are even accusing Pakistan of adhering to an ostrich-like attitude to such a grave happening. With that said, June this year is expected to bring more Pakistani theatrics, this time delivered under a more feverish pitch in order to come out of the FATF deadline expiring in June. Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Quereshi has loudly reminded the international community about Pakistan's so-called constructive role in helping the Taliban to agree to a truce with Afghanistan. This reminder was specifically aimed at the US in order to help Pakistan come out of the FATF restrictions but that was not to be.
While this Paris verdict is likely to haunt Pakistan for several months, another important aspect is being highlighted by the experts which expose Pakistan's policy of duplicity. Pakistan has been very critical of India for the latter's dealing on NRC, CAA and NPR, supporting the ongoing protests while it's own draconian system of National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) has wreaked havoc amongst its countless Afghan refugees. According to a conservative estimate, 3,57,000 Afghan nationals were pushed back in 2017 and the trend has been maintained since then and available indications signal more of such pushback next month and in April. It's relevant to know that Pakistan is one of the 30 odd countries that confer the right to citizenship upon birth but most notably, it denies the same to the newborns of Afghan nationals. More importantly, soon after Imran Khan assumed power in 2018, he had promised that the government would consider granting citizenship to those Afghan nationals born and raised in Pakistan. However, this overture was brutally withdrawn, ostensibly under ISI pressure. Knowledgable sources argue that the mass dislocation of the Afghan refugees to Pakistan was an outcome of Pakistani engineered jihad against the Russians.
It is equally pertinent to point out that every country has prerogatives to define its own internal security paradigms to enforce citizenship laws and same applies to India which is within its rights to collect, collate and analyse data which is linked to the enforcement of citizenship-related laws. In this light, Pakistan would perhaps do well to indulge in soul searching before advising India on secularism and citizenship rights.
Other than this, Pakistan is reeling under religious bigotry in full steam. Terrorism has always benefited from such trends of religious extremism nurtured by the state whether by dictator Pervez Musharraf who projected a holier than thou image or even by the present-day ISI. India must now hold a healthy apprehension against a further weakened Pakistan drawing up fresh plans to needle soft targets in India, considering that India is strategically warming up to the US and vice versa. Also, because Pakistan perceives India as a nation going through a period full of debates on citizenship laws and internal divergent thoughts, it could be easier to plan an act detrimental to Indian security interests, particularly in J&K. The lull that has set in Pakistan looks ominous as frustration is more than obvious in the Military Cantonment in Rawalpindi then in Islamabad political circles.
The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are strictly personal