International pressure is mounting on Pakistan to take credible and verifiable steps to rein in terrorist outfits operating on its soil. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog on terror funding, held out a stern message to Islamabad to complete the action plan by October this year or face the consequences. Already under grey-listing of the FATF for failing to comply with the required measures on terror funding, Pakistan now faces the prospect of being blacklisted, which is akin to facing international sanctions. Close on the heels of the global watchdog’s warning, India made it amply clear to Pakistan that it must comply with the FATF norms and address global concerns related to terrorism and terrorist financing. A plenary meeting of FATF, held in Orlando recently, pulled up Islamabad for failing to meet targets to counter terror financing for the second consecutive time and warned of harsher action. The multilateral watchdog placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June last year for failing to counter fund-raising by eight terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Pakistan may have earned the reprieve for now and avoided the ignominy of being blacklisted, thanks to generous help from its all-weather ally China, Malaysia and Turkey, it should realise that it cannot continue the duplicitous game anymore. In order to hoodwink the international community, it undertook a cosmetic exercise of arresting some LeT, JeM and JuD cadres under its Maintenance of Public Order Act and not under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
No cases have been registered against the terror leadership including Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar and other UN-designated terrorists. Pakistan has not been able to implement the 27 point action plan which was assigned to it by the FATF. The global watchdog set Islamabad a deadline for 2019 January to show conclusive proof of impact caused, which was further extended till May 2019. However, Islamabad failed to meet both deadlines. The main problem arises because the establishment and the so-called non-state actors are virtually indistinguishable in Pakistan which has, for decades, used terrorism an instrument of the state policy and nurtured anti-India terror outfits. 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.