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After US terror report Pakistan edges closer to FATF blacklist

After US terror report Pakistan edges closer to FATF blacklist

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stirred a hornets nest on Thursday after he hailed Osama Bin Laden, the terror mastermind, a “martyr,” while commenting on the terror icon’s slaying by US special forces in Abbotabad during an audacious midnight raid nine years ago.

Imran Khan’s bizarre ‘statement’ in the wake of the US State Department’s annual country report on terrorism, released on Wednesday, reinforces Islamabad’s image as a sympathizer and sponsor of global terrorism. It may push the country to being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Not only will its confirmation as a funder of international terrorism by the Paris based watchdog further tarnish Pakistan’s already besmirched international image, it will deepen Islamabad’s global financial isolation, opening a pathway to the country’s complete
economic collapse.

The US report is firm in concluding that Pakistan’s so-called efforts to destroy militancy in the region do not pass muster. “Pakistan remains a safe harbor for other regionally focused groups. It allowed groups
targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organisation and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory," says the report.

Imran Khan’s statement, lauding Laden, is a pointer that other affiliates of the Al-Qaeda, such as the infamous HQN could well be in Pakistan. The country’s claims of blanketly
countering terrorism across geographies are not only baseless, but laughable. To India, Pakistan’s hypocrisy, double speak, and fake action on terror, when under pressure is not surprising. For long, India has been repeating that Pakistan’s approach to counter-terrorism is tactical and not strategic.

The Congress mandated US 2019 Country Report on Terrorism vindicates India’s long-standing position. According to the Report, Pakistan is still “the safe haven” and nerve centre of international terrorism. The report adds that “Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against India and Afghanistan focused militants.” Pakistan acted modestly against externally focused terrorist organisations and indicted LeT boss Hafiz Sayeed and his 12 men in three terrorism financing cases under global pressure.

“However, Pakistan remained a safe harbour for other regionally focused terrorist organisations,” the report says. The US said Pakistan allowed groups targeting neighbouring Afghanistan and India. Afghan Taliban, HQN, Jaish, LeT operate from its soil. “It did not take action against other known terrorists such as JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan,” the State department said.

While Pakistani authorities, under international pressure, have taken some ‘soft” actions against LeT and its founder Hafiz Sayeed and 12 his associates, the Pakistani army continues to protect terrorists such as JeM Chief Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir. Azhar, a UN-designated terrorist, the report, said, remains “free in Pakistan”. He was designated a global terrorist under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 on May 1,2019.

Azhar is on India’s Most Wanted list. He was involved in various attacks including an attack on Jammu and Kashmir assembly complex in 2001, attack on Indian Parliament in 2001, attack on Pathankot air base in 2016, attack on a BSF camp in Srinagar and attack on a CRPF bus at Pulwama in 2019.

The report says that Pakistani premier Imran Khan and the country’s military “acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country.” No sufficient action was taken, the US said. The FATF noted that Islamabad has addressed only 14 out of the
27 actionable items that it was handed over for controlling funding to terror organisations such as LeT and JeM , responsible for serial terror attacks in India.

The FATF had asked Pakistan to complete its full action plan by June 2020 but Islamabad is lagging. It has been put on FATF’s 'Grey List' till October 2020. It appears unlikely that Pakistan would be able to meet its target in the next three to four months. FATF’s next plenary meeting will be held in February 2121. If Pakistan fails to deliver by then, it might find itself docked in FATF’s infamous 'Black List.'.