By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
In recent days, two events shook Pakistan.
First it was a statement given by former PM Nawaz Sharif. In his interview with a national daily, he infamously said, “Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” As a three-time PM, Nawaz should have known why the trial was not completed. The trial started in an anti-terrorism court in 2009. Pakistan’s official stance was that India had not given “solid evidence” against Hafiz Saeed and others. Because of this, Saeed was released. It is baffling that a three-time PM was unaware of why the trial was not completed. The second part of his statement ‘should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me’ implied state complicity. This was a serious allegation that caused a huge negative cascading effect on Pakistan in the international arena. Indian media, ecstatic with these ill-chosen words, played it to the hilt. Sharif’s remarks were immediately picked up by Indian media calling it Pakistan’s confession of Mumbai attacks.
The country’s civil and military leadership rejected the statement. However, within hours after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi stated that ‘the civil-military huddle condemned the ‘incorrect reporting’ and not the former PM,’ exposing the civil-military divide. His position should have been to highlight Pakistan’s efforts towards counter-terrorism instead of making careless statements that damaged Pakistan’s cause. Scoring points against state institutions at the cost of national interest can only hurt Pakistan. Such statements can only help nations hostile to hurt Pakistan.
The second event – widely debated on the mainstream and social media – stemmed out of Spy Chronicles, a book coauthored by General Asad Durrani. General Durrani was unceremoniously forced into retirement in 1993 by COAS Gen. Waheed Kakar, whereas the Mumbai attacks took place in 2008 and Abbottabad OBL (Osama bin Laden) operation in 2011. The OBL operation, therefore, took place 18 years after his retirement. A lot of hue and cry has been raised on the social media where Spy Chronicles is being commonly shared in its soft (or PDF) form. His co-author is A S Dulat, former chief of Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Rumours are rife about Durrani having taken name of a retired Brigadier, now no more, as having claimed reward for pinpointing the location of Bin Laden; a point strongly refuted by him in a private mail to me.
He claims, “I never mentioned anyone. In fact, I had someone else in mind — a former intelligence hand– but didn’t take any names. Must have somewhere also mentioned Shakil Afridi! Besides disabusing the Polio Programme, I charged him of collaboration with a foreign intelligence agency; in certain circles, a more serious charge.”
On May 25, 11.58 pm, Major General Asif Ghafoor of ISPR tweeted from his official handle, “Lt Gen Asad Durrani, (Retired) being called in GHQ on 28th May 18. Will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in book ‘Spy Chronicles’. Attribution taken as violation of Military Code of Conduct applicable on all serving and retired military personnel.” The outcome of the meeting was a decision to set up a court of inquiry headed by a serving lieutenant general to inquire the issue in depth. As per a newspaper report the court of inquiry would undertake the probe under 1923 Official Secret Act. Meanwhile General Durrani has been placed on the exit control list.
His book has sparked strong reactions in Pakistan. In the opinion of Brigadier (retd) Said Nazir Mohmand, General Durrani was not guarded in expressing his opinions. Issues discussed will be used to criticize Pakistan Army. Views of people reflect that such opinions as discussed in the book can help Nawaz Sharif’s narrative. Meanwhile, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has told Pakistan to submit a well-defined action plan by June 8th as to how the country plans to deal with groups allegedly linked to Hafiz Saeed to avoid sanctions. In Pakistan’s submission to FATF a few weeks ago, it was shared that as part of its crackdown on three organizations linked to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed it took steps to block their funding besides freezing properties approximately amounting to one million dollars.
Officials said that, “The JuD and FIF Markaz were taken over by the state by freezing 121 bank accounts under the UNSC Resolution-1267, having deposits of around $100 million. This includes 69 bank accounts containing Rs10.97 million of JuD, LeT and FIF of concerns (19 accounts) and associated individuals (50 accounts)”. It was also revealed that Pakistan has ensured the implementation of UNSC’s resolutions putting LeT, JuD, FIF, ISIS, al-Qaeda and other groups on the terror watch-list.
Pakistan needs to understand that the concerns of the international community regarding Islamabad’s need to counter terrorism and put a cap on funding to certain entities are of a longstanding nature. They have not developed overnight. The US has been pushing the FATF to place Pakistan on the list of terror financing nations. The relations between Pakistan and US have been taking a nose dive and have hit an all-time low. The differences have been building over time basically boiling down to different approaches to issues in Afghanistan.
What Pakistan’s policymakers need to realize is that any such action by FATF can further choke Pakistan’s economy and international standing. FATF listings do not impose sanctions per se but step up scrutiny for international transactions. Reduction in the inflow of capital as a result will make it increasingly tough for Pakistan to borrow funds from international markets. To address the main concerns of FATF, Pakistan must zero in on Hafiz Saeed, including its charity branches of Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Saeed has denied any connection with terrorist activities, along with arguing that the crackdown on his seminaries is of illegal nature. And despite the reduction of US military aid in the last seven years by 60%, Pakistan is confident that its strong ally China will be able to bail her out. It is extremely important for both the civilian setup and the Army to be united to develop a solid plan to deal with what is demanded of the nation by the global community. It needs a radical change in approach to address the issue. So far, as the statements by former Prime Minister and Former Head of ISI (as stated in his book) are concerned, they can be set aside if Pakistan does succeed in fulfilling the demands of the FATF. And If not, both these opinions can be used as a reflection of Pakistan’s failure to do so.
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