Pakistan’s latest announcement on prosecuting the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafeez Saeed and his associates on terrorism charges comes across as a mere eyewash in the face of growing pressure from the United States and a global watchdog group, Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It has now become a familiar pattern with Islamabad to initiate some cosmetic measures to hoodwink international community whenever there is intense global pressure on the issue of terrorism. But, then it is back to business as usual. This time, however, Pakistan faces the prospect of being blacklisted by FATF for failing to rein in the terror outfits and curb terror financing. The latest so-called crackdown on terror organisations must be seen in the backdrop of the October deadline set by the multilateral watchdog for Islamabad to act in a credible and demonstrable manner. Earlier, in June last year, it placed the country on its “grey list” for failing to follow the guidelines on countering fund-raising by eight terror groups, including LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Nemesis is now fast catching up Islamabad which has, for decades, used terrorism as an instrument of the State policy. While Pakistan’s counter-terrorism department said it has launched 23 cases against Saeed and 12 aides for using five trusts to collect funds for LeT, this basically is a case of double standards. India cannot be fooled by such cosmetic measures. It must be pointed out that Pakistan has failed to implement the 27 point action plan assigned to it by the FATF.
The main problem arises because the establishment and the so-called non-state actors are virtually indistinguishable. Pakistani leadership must realise that the country would stand to lose if it remains in the grey list of FATF because it means downgrading by IMF, World Bank, ADB, EU and also a reduction in risk rating. This will add to Islamabad’s financial woes as it has been desperately seeking aid from all possible international avenues. The main focus of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who promised to usher in ‘Naya Pakistan’, must be to ensure that the country gets off the FATF grey list by taking necessary steps to effectively implement the action plan. In the past, it had earned the reprieve and avoided the ignominy of being blacklisted by FATF, thanks to generous help from its all-weather ally China, Malyasia and Turkey. However, Islamabad must realise that it cannot continue the duplicitous game anymore. There is a growing realisation across the world that Pakistan has become the hub of international terrorism while anti-India terror outfits enjoy official patronage. Pakistan’s sincerity to take action against terror groups will be judged on the basis of its ability to demonstrate verifiable, credible and irreversible action.