Pakistan is reeling under yet another shock as the terror related global watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) further extended its ban retaining Pakistan under the grey list following its abysmal failure to fulfill all the requirements set by the FATF. This has obviously dealt a severe blow to the country’s image which already stands badly bruised and battered. Unable to reconcile to this harsh reality, Pakistan has started reacting in panic. Its minister for Finance and Revenue, Shawkat Tarin, in an interview (March 5) to “Khaleej Times”, has described the decision as politically motivated. He also alleged that the said decision was taken under the influence of some powerful nations to pressurise Pakistan over its strategic policy decisions. In the same vein, the minister claimed that Pakistan having completed twenty six of the twenty-seven conditions, is expected to come out of the list on the next date in June this year.
Meanwhile, Pakistani political leadership has insinuated India’s hand for this FATF verdict. However, the financial monitoring outfit has called upon Pakistan to continue to work to address the pending tasks by demonstrating a positive and sustained trend of pursuing complex terror related investigations and prosecutions. Experts in the meantime, assess that in view of Pakistan’s inertia, the FATF as the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog may keep Pakistan under increased monitoring even beyond on one pretext or the other. Knowledgeable quarters also analyse that Islamabad’s growing tilt towards China and recently Russia, is widening the gulf between the country and the West, including the US, allowing India to “influence” FATF decision on Pakistan. This, however, looks farfetched. That apart, this development also exhibits Pakistan’s weakening clout in the western capitals. In response, a powerful voice of the Pakistani print media has called upon its government to beef up diplomatic efforts for garnering greater support for its attempts to exit the grey list by attending to the remaining unfulfilled conditions.
Pakistan remains on the FATF grey list.#FATF President Marcus Pleyer announces in the briefing underway right now pic.twitter.com/uXtexINxdh
— Geeta Mohan گیتا موہن गीता मोहन (@Geeta_Mohan) October 21, 2021
Simultaneously, on March 4, a deadly suicide attack rocked Kissa Bazar in Peshawar causing over fifty-seven casualties and grievous injuries to over two hundred. Very significantly, the suicide bombing was carried out in a Shia Mosque on a pious Friday where Muslims congregate to offer prayers. Sadly, religious intolerance has once again come to the fore in Pakistan proving that the minority Shias were deliberately targeted as in the past has been the case with the Hazaras, the Ahmediyas, the Sikhs and the Hindus.
There is also an increasing trend of blaming and framing the minorities on the pretext of blasphemy laws. It is always convenient for the Pakistan politicians and security agencies to blame India for causing terror attacks in various parts of Pakistan, specially in the turbulent Balochistan. But the authorities in Pakistan are invariably under a sense of amnesia that their own intelligence services and well fed military and the ISI have failed time and again to alert the district administration and also failing to take any preventive measures. This aspect needs attention and instead of blaming the neighbouring country for the spiralling terror misadventures at the very heart of Pakistan.
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A mention of Baluchistan as a target of terror attacks has been made here. Baluchistan watchers say that this province is changing rapidly. Conventional provincial allies of power elites in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are losing their importance including the Sardars, Nawabs and elders of ‘peace committees’ who have been keeping an eye on the dissidents, acting against them when needed. Experts further reckon that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has securitized the region and caused immense damage. First, it has aggravated the residents’ ire. Second, the lack of interaction between the Chinese workers and the local population has not only triggered conspiracy theories about CPEC, but have also made the Chinese a target of the insurgents.
Meanwhile, many in southern Baluchistan say that the attitude of security forces at checkpoints have seen a rise in smuggling cases after the gradual reopening of border trade with Iran, for smuggling of Iranian diesel and edibles. A common perception is that allowing Zamyad (Zamyad are blue Iranian vehicles) on highways will help engage the youth, addressing unemployment issues and shielding the youngsters from insurgent influences. Though the number of these vehicles is far less now compared to the year preceding the construction of the border fence and the ban on informal trade with Iran, many in Balochistan hope that trade will pick up again as it is practically the only source of income for residents of the border areas.
Interestingly, administrations in the Makran region, especially in Gwadar, have been tasked with expediting the development projects committed under CPEC and the prime minister’s southern Balochistan package. These projects include changing water supply pipelines, coal power to address Gwadar’s energy needs, and technical education institutions across the region as well as an industrial estate in Turbat.
However, the citizens doubt these projects will be completed soon given the government’s past record. The biggest worry is that a mafia of contractors consisting of influential people in the government, bureaucracy and establishment wants to execute these projects. If they get these, it could inflict huge damage on national treasure and CPEC’s reputation and will increase the trust deficit between the state and the Baluchistan citizens. However, on ground, so far there is no action or execution of the plan. For power elites, development is a major strategy for addressing local grievances, but this model has not produced results because of corruption and lack of parliamentary and citizenry oversight. The demand of the people is genuine.
In sum, simmering in Baluchistan, terror cases, as most recently in Peshawar, the political tumult and the FATF retaining Pakistan in the grey list have posed endless problems to the political leadership. The country has to walk several extra miles to minimise its headaches including to do a lot to exit the FATF grey list.
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(The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)