Yasmeen Aftab Ali
It is an unfortunate trait of Pakistan’s policies that are mostly reactive, rather than well thought out and in line with national interests. Getting off the hook, temporarily, with a three month reprieve over terrorist financing watch-list at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris is a sad reflection on the rudderless state of lack of strategic governance in Pakistan. A motion initiated by the US and backed by other states mainly UK, Germany, France seeks to place Pakistan on the “grey-list”; a list that boasts weak nations that failed to enforce strong regulations against terror financing.
USA under Trump has picked out only one reason for her troubles in Afghanistan. That trouble is called Pakistan. The US under Trump through this approach has decided to come after Pakistan. The changing geo-political nexus with the US seen to be siding openly with India and literally foul-mouthing Pakistan publicly is the ‘new US tactic’ (Reference Trump’s tweet on on January 1st 2018). China’s commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and by extension China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), designed not only to excel its outreach to the world but also to gain a stronger regional foothold, is crystal clear.
This rise of China is something the US has feared and would like to delay as much as it can. The ambitious posture of China gives rise to a fundamental question: whether it will be China or the US that determines the rules for trade and investments in the decades to come.
Geo-politics aside, the limelight cannot be drawn away from Pakistan’s abject failure at devising policies to any area of domestic or international policies. On September 28, 2016, the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, released Statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s call with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India that reads as follows:
“National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice spoke today by phone with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Ambassador Rice strongly condemned the September 18 cross-border attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and offered condolences to the victims and their families. Ambassador Rice affirmed President Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world. Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates. In the context of the robust U.S.-India partnership, Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursuing peace and regional stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counterterrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations.”
It was interesting to note that the term “cross-border terrorism” was used twice – once in context of Uri Army Base attack. Without any prior investigation conducted, it was strange for the US to issue such a serious statement. On September 21, 2016 The Economic Times, India, stated undertaking of DNA test from slain four militants by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It states and I quote, “We are examining all possibilities and role of an insider cannot be ruled out,” says a senior NIA official adding that the four militants had some local support that may have been arranged by their handlers. The same source goes on to state that, “Agency sources say that NIA would adopt a 2-pronged strategy to investigate the case. One to find out how the Army lines were breached and the other whether there were insiders passing on crucial information to the enemy. The second would be to look into the perpetrators of the attack. Is it possible that the militants received local support using which they managed to gain entry into the airbase by cutting barbed wire,” the official said.
Another report by The Indian Express, dated September 22, 2016, states, “Officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing Sunday’s terror attack on the Army camp in Uri which left 18 soldiers dead, believe that the terrorists spent at least a day in the mountains above the brigade headquarters complex, observing their target.” The same source goes on to state, “Investigation sources said their hopes of proving that the terrorists began their journey in Pakistan now rest on retrieving data from a damaged Global Positioning System (GPS) set recovered from the attack site.”
Note that sources quoted are September 21 and September 22 respectively whereas The White House Statement is released on September 28 when the investigation was neither complete nor were the reports in.
The question raised here in light of FATF’s delayed action is why has the country failed in developing strategies to present a strong case for Pakistan internationally with all facts available?
Pakistan had two options on which to build her strategy on, including a) making a strong statement that the country have banned stated organisations as well as individuals associated with them, arrested some, placing them under trial while seizing their assets and, b) stating categorically that these outfits are charity organisations working for welfare of the people and not even remotely associated with terrorist activities, presenting facts and data to the effect. There was no third option.
The International Cooperation Review Group in November 2017 had tried to address Pakistan’s attention to comply but was ignored. The government later, to demonstrate its sincerity, rushed into promulgating an ordinance banning these organisations to give her legal cover. The US is now using other pressure tactics with Pakistan. Supporting India as regional ally, suspending coalition military aid to Pakistan, and dissing Pakistan publicly, among others.
Irrespective of what the US is doing, Pakistan must revisit the opaque policies she follows. Policy makers in Islamabad must have clarity in their strategies and present their case to the international community factually, and not as a reaction, and using fire-fighting tactics. This three month reprieve must not be whittled away by the government in exclusively being focused on domestic issues alone.
Being placed on a terror funding watch list will have serious repercussions of its own. Such an act will cut through the few banking links Pakistan has in the world. This is not just about “arranging funds from friend states” but about the image of Pakistan worldwide and the dignity of every Pakistani.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9