DURING her recent visit to Pakistan, Lisa Curtis raised Washington’s concerns about gaps in Pakistan’s anti-terrorist financing controls and fund-raising by militants. This message was superfluous, as the US had already decided to punish Pakistan through the FATF, as part of its new ‘strategy’, which posits that the US can win the Afghan war, by getting tough with Pakistan. This action has further infuriated most Pakistanis and added to the alienation of the US in Pakistan. Ms Curtis is known in South Asia for her bias in favour of India and her association with Hussain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador in the US, who now makes a living by demonising his own country. Though Haqqani is wanted by Pakistani courts for ‘waging war against Pakistan’ and ‘hatching criminal conspiracy’ against the State, he is now a Director at the Hudson Institute, which receives US government funding, among others.
Persistent hostile US actions against Pakistan at the FATF and elsewhere, could please the Afghan rulers, as they absolve them of their incompetence; or India, as they enable it to conceal its atrocities in Kashmir, but they are damaging the Pak-US relations beyond repair. During his latest testimony before the US Armed Services Committee, General Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, was candid to appreciate Pakistani actions to ‘expand border control mechanisms and efforts to improve paramilitary security capabilities’. He acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism, maintained that Pakistan’s cooperation remained imperative for the success of the US policies and hinted at ‘positive indicators from Pakistan—’. While repeating some old allegations, he admitted that cross-border terrorist attacks between Pakistan and Afghanistan hinder both countries’ abilities to coordinate on border security. He also termed the military-to-military relationship with Pakistan as valuable. While some of these statements indicate a better comprehension of the regional milieu by the US DoD, its actions are constrained by a fallacious and prejudiced strategy at the top, that is slowly but surely going to end the Pakistan-US partnership. When this happens, it will immensely benefit the terrorists on either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Going back to the FATF drama, it is important to trace its genesis. The LeT, which supported the Kashmir cause and the UN Resolution on Kashmir, were blamed by India for the terrorists attack on its Parliament in 2001 and thereafter the Mumbai bombing in 2008. The US named the LeT, as a terrorist organization in December 2001, pursuant to Executive Order 13224. In 2014, the US amended LeT’s designations to include Jama’at-ud-Dawa (JUD), a popular charity cum preaching foundation, as an alias organization of the LeT. US persons or entities can’t engage in any transactions with such persons and entities. Under UNSC Resolution 1267 of 2001 and 1822 of 2008, the UN listed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, as a terrorist for his alleged association with LeT and Al-Qaeda in December 2008. Some details of these accusations, oddly termed as ‘narrative’, have also been provided by the UN on its website, but these are not substantiated by any evidence.
Since 2012, the United States has offered a US $10 millioný reward for information about Hafiz Saeed’s involvement in terrorism. Such information, if any, has not been shared with Pakistan. Pakistan banned the LeT in 2002, the JUD in 2005 and took over control of the Saeed’s other charity foundations on 14 Feb 2018. It must be noted that US law is not valid in Pakistan and Islamabad is only obliged to follow the UN Resolutions, under which arrest of Hafiz Saeed is not an obligation without any proven crime or evidence. Doing so will be a violation of Pakistani laws and human rights. Under UN Resolutions, Pakistan is required to freeze the financial assets of Hafiz Saeed, which it has done, though Hafiz Saeed has repeatedly denied his association with any terrorist’s attacks. Under US pressure, Pakistan has been detaining and placing Saeed under house arrest, off and on, under ‘Maintenance of Public Order’ as there are no charges against him in Pakistani courts. Pakistan has been requesting for credible evidence against Saeed from India since 2008, but New Delhi has failed to provide this, so far. Thus, any US and Indian concerns over the freedom of Pakistani court verdicts, to release Saeed due to absence of proof, are unwarranted and are a meddling in the internal matters of Pakistan.
Through these actions, the Indo-US nexus is openly using the UN, and now the FATF to tarnish Pakistani image, hurt its economy and dilute the Kashmiri’s struggle for self-determination, promised to them by the UN. The UN is mandated to address the root causes of terrorism and not its symptoms. It needs to implement its resolutions on Kashmir, shun its support to foreign occupations and censor violations of human rights in India. While doing so, it might designate Modi as a terrorist for ordering the killing of thousands of Indian Muslims, innocent Kashmiris and Pakistanis. The US is further embroiling itself in South Asian conflicts by siding with India and linking Kashmir with the events in Afghanistan, which is clearly reckless. Will any one in the Trump team has the mettle to admit this simple reality and make a course correction in its disastrous South Asia policy?
The change might include black listing India at the FATF for terror financing to sabotage the CPEC, abetting terrorism in Balochistan, FATA and Sindh, money laundering through MQM London and dissipating Pakistani efforts to manage its western borders. While Pakistan must strengthen its own banking and financial laws, as outlined in the NAP, it need not worry too much about the FATF, as it is neither a formal international organization, nor can it invite legal or penal proceedings. Like in the past, any future extortion through the FATF should strengthen our will and resilience to survive, besides making us more self-reliant.
— The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former president of National Defence University, Islamabad.