Volume 22 Issue 4, April 2018


It is indeed extremely worrying that unless Pakistan takes measures before the next FATF meeting scheduled for June to satisfy the FATF Committee of having a practical action plan as well as a serious resolve to tackle the issue of terror financing, the country could end up on the black list.

Even placement on the grey list could be disastrous as it would deprive Pakistan of loans and assistance from international agencies while Europe could claw back the preferential treatment that it gives to Pakistani exports, which are already on a downward spiral. To add to the country’s misery, imports are rising, due also to CPEC, while oil prices are also going up, and together, they could wipe out the nation’s meagre forex reserves.

Just imagine how nightmarish it would be to be denied funds in a situation where Pakistan has to seek fresh loans even to repay the old ones?

Following the offensive statement by U.S. officials like the one by U.S. Defence Secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis to try to work with Pakistan one more time, there was an angry tweet from the U.S. President Trump, which read:
"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given U.S. nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

Trump stopped the paltry U.S. aid to Pakistan which was more by way of reimbursement of expenses incurred by the Pakistan armed forces. Trump ignored the fact that all these years, Pakistan charged U.S. nothing for the use of Karachi Port and road transit facilities all the way to Afghanistan as well as the use of Pakistan’s airspace for supplies to U.S. forces and that of its allies. No wonder they say that troubles never come singly.

Just consider Pakistan’s misfortune that at a time like this when the country needs a strong, capable government which could take remedial measures that save the country from the impending disaster, there is instead a lame duck government, with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as a joke of a Prime Minister, who does not consider himself to be the prime minister and looks up to disqualified Nawaz Sharif for inspiration and decisions.

Also, with finance minister Ishaq Dar away on a long sick leave, the PM is running the finance ministry with the help of an adviser on finance, in lieu of a competent and energetic finance minister. The PM has nominated his aide, a young man - with no grounding in diplomacy - as the new ambassador to the U.S. despite the desperate need and availability of seasoned diplomats for the position.

However, doomsday is not just around the corner, and one has reasons to believe this.

Remember, how furious Donald Trump was with North Korea and Iran. However, things have changed with North Korea's offer for talks, which Trump has accepted. Also, the U.S. seems to be in no hurry to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran. Perhaps a year in office and desertion by some top officials because of his rash style had a sobering effect on Trump and also made him realize the limits of his power.

Having failed to coerce Pakistan into submission, the U.S. has been forced to take a softer line as demonstrated by U.S. Defence Secretary Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley's statement before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on March 6, as well as comments made by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells during a news briefing. Between them, the two admitted that Pakistan's continuing counter-insurgency operations and border management efforts were effectively curbing terrorism in Pakistan and that the Taliban and Pakistan also had genuine grievances. Moreover, with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua's visit to the U.S., fresh consultations between civilian and military authorities of the two countries are due to start. The recent U.S. drone attack in Afghanistan which killed twenty militants and a son of Mullah Fazlullah, a Pakistan Taliban Commander from Swat now stationed in Afghanistan, and U.S. State department's offer of rewards of $5 million for information leading to Mullah Fazlullah and $3 million each for Mangal Bagh and Abdul Wali, clearly show U.S. seriousness in addressing Pakistan's concerns.

Also with the resumption of the TAPI pipeline construction work in Afghanistan, the U.S. needs to reach an understanding with the Taliban for which it would need Pakistan's help.

Seeking peace in the region, China has started courting the Taliban. Afghan Chief Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri is reported to have told Arab News that the Chinese government has agreed to pay for the construction of a military base, as also to meet all costs and expenses of a brigade of Afghan troops in Afghanistan's remote northeastern Badakhshan province to prevent militants' incursions into Chinese territory.

Surely, with over three trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves, China can afford to offer Afghans much more than what the Americans did. It can even dig up vast Afghan mineral wealth for mutual benefit and thus bring progress and prosperity in Afghanistan. All this must also be worrying the Americans.

Coming back to FATF, despite the present limitations of the Pakistan government, the concerned departments have already done admirable work in pursuance of the UNSC resolution 1267 which requires Pakistan to work against Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa, its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, as well as Lashkar-e-Taiba which are on the UNSC sanctions list. Pakistan has amended its Anti-Terrorist Act to enable it to take necessary action against banned outfits and has already confiscated nearly 200 properties of JUD and FIF, comprising buildings, hospitals, dispensaries and ambulances, etc. Coupled with additional work between now and June, Pakistan would be hopefully able to satisfy the FATF committee.
Pakistan will pull through, like it has done in numerous U.S. critical situations in the past.

The writer is a free-lance contributor whose scope of interests is highly diversified, though his main focus is on regional, South Asian and international affairs.      
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