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‘Masood Azhar remains free in Pakistan, a safe harbor for terrorist groups’

‘Masood Azhar remains free in Pakistan, a safe harbor for terrorist groups’

Pakistan's lies have once again been laid bare as the latest 'Country Reports on Terrorism 2019' released yesterday by the US State Department has said that the Jaish-e-Mohammed founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar remains free in Pakistan as the country continues to be safe harbor for other regionally focused terrorist groups.

Just a few days before a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Plenary meeting in Paris this February—which would have evaluated Pakistan's measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing—Hammad Azhar, the Economic Affairs Minister, had said that Azhar has gone missing from the country and thus the authorities were unable to file a first investigation report (FIR) against him.

The drama continued. Just four days before the FATF meeting, 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind, the Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) founder and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, having a $10 million American bounty on his head, was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in two terror financing cases.

<img class="wp-image-3818 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/39c926b1b9ef9a0a0f7c822a8fd152db.jpg" alt="" width="2400" height="1600" /> Hafiz Saeed addresses a rally in Pakistan's Lahore (Xinhua/Jamil Ahmed)

The US had then described it as an "important step forward" for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terror financing and not to allow non-state actors to operate from its soil.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">Today’s conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward – both toward holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pakistan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pakistan</a> in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing.</p>
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) <a href="https://twitter.com/State_SCA/status/1227683820050223105?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 12, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Meanwhile, India always believed that Pakistan was trying to hoodwink the international community by taking "cosmetic steps" against terror groups.

The report released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last night justified Indian government's stand once again as it revealed that India-focused militant groups continued to enjoy state protection with Pakistan not taking enough concrete steps to restrain them.

<img class="wp-image-3819 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/3e6c8eafb9f14b19138b78a8ffc9aaab.jpg" alt="" width="2000" height="1333" /> India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (State Dept./IANS)

"Pakistan remained a safe harbor for other regionally focused terrorist groups and allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN, as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory. 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," it said.

The report added that even though Pakistan had made some progress toward meeting the Action Plan requirements for the FATF, allowing it to avoid being blacklisted, it did not complete all Action Plan items in 2019.

In January 2018, the US government suspended most of its security assistance to Pakistan over the government’s failure to adequately address the threat posed by militant and terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil.

Although Pakistan’s National Action Plan calls to "ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country," several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The government and military acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country. Authorities did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country, the report said.

The ISIS, which lost the last remnants of its territory in Syria, opening new branches in Pakistan and al-Qa’ida (AQIS) also continues to operate from remote locations in the region that historically served as safe havens.

While exposing Pakistan, the United States State Department mentioned how it continues to work closely with India to counter terror.

"The United States continues to build its strategic partnership with the Government of India, including through the bilateral Counterterrorism Joint Working Group meeting in March and the second 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in December," the annual report said..