Hours before leaving for the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet, Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview to Sputnik, a Russian news agency, blew hot and cold in the same breath. He began his interview like an astute statesman but at the end sadly watered down all the logic by crying foul against India on Kashmir. Did Pak army’s Zarb-i-azab operation in North Waziristan backfire in which nearly 70 thousand people including about 8 thousand troopers were slaughtered? No, and Pak army was happy to receive accolades from the Pentagon for the killings.
Thrice in recent weeks, Imran Khan desired resumption of stalled Indo-Pak talks. New Delhi considered these overtures only a publicity show and most probably to impress the IFIA that Islamabad seeks peace in the region. Sincere intention demanded that in his letter to PM Modi, he should have even briefly talked of curbs imposed on anti-India terrorist outfits and their activities, He should have talked about busting their networks.
Pakistani Rangers continue shelling our border towns along the LoC and disrupting the life of peaceful civilians. The ban Pakistan imposed on Indian flights over Pakistani territory continues till date although the two countries are not in a state of war. Curbing the terrorist organizations or drying up their financial resources demands judicial instrumentality which is elusive.
Before Chinese President XI was preparing to travel to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to attend the SCO meet, a Chinese semi-official English daily Global Times published a write-up reflecting on peace and security in Soth Asia. It doled out flowery rhetoric exhorting New Delhi to respond to the overtures of Pakistani PM for peace talks. In subtle words, it wanted to convey that Beijing would be ready to offer its mediation knowing that India was averse to such initiatives from any quarter.
Within a day or two of this indirect message, a spokesman of the American foreign office, commenting on the situation in South Asia in the background of rising tension in the Persian Gulf in which an American tanker was attacked, said that India had made it clear to Pakistan that terror and talks cannot go together.
Beijing is precisely replicating the exhortations of Pakistani leaders to let terrorists go on with their marauder role in Kashmir and at the same time conduct a dialogue with Pakistan. Pakistan wants to create an area that either (a) GHQ is on board when the offer of talks is made to New Delhi, or (b) GHQ remains sidelined while bilateral talks ensue. Both propositions are false and cannot be relied upon. The crux of the failure of Indo-Pak talks in historical terms is that the GHQ dictates the terms, not Islamabad.
The drama of the offer of talks to New Delhi has a definite purpose. Given the history of Indo-Pak relations, it is unusual for Pakistan to ask India for the resumption of talks or to approach the third party for the purpose. It is also unusual for China to publicly though unofficially prompt India to return to talks without touching the core issue of Pakistan dismantling the terrorist structure.
Pakistan has been under the scanner of Asia Pacific Joint Working Group (APG) to which the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) presents its terminal reports on how countries suspected of facilitating the financing of terrorist organizations is behaving.
Pakistan has been under the FATF s scanner since last June, when it was put on the greylist for terror financing and money laundering risks, after an assessment of its financial system and law enforcement mechanisms.
In June 2018, Pakistan made a commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorism financing-related deficiencies. Based on this commitment, Pakistan and the FATF agreed on the monitoring of 27 indicators under a 10-point action plan, with deadlines.
Successful implementation of the action plan and its physical verification by the APG will lead the FATF to move Pakistan out of the grey-list; failure by Pakistan will result in its blacklisting by September 2019. In a statement, the FATF said in February: “Given the limited progress on action plan items due in January 2019, the FATF urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan, particularly those with timelines of May 2019”.
Last month, at a meeting in Guangzhou, China, Pakistan presented its progress on the 27 indicators in a meeting with the Joint Group of the APG. India is co-chair of the Joint Group.
Recently, the Joint Group informed Islamabad that its compliance on 18 of the 27 indicators was unsatisfactory, and asked it to do more to demonstrate strict action against eight terrorist groups, and in combating money laundering. The write-up in the semi-official Global Times of China, to which reference has been made, should be seen in the light of the Guangzhou meet. It is to be recalled that China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as one unit vote had opposed bringing Pakistan on the grey list in the previous meeting of FATF while the US and India had strongly pleaded for the action.
The FATF is meeting in Orlando (USA) on 16 June where a decision would be drafted for the formal announcement to be made by it in the Plenary scheduled for October 13-18 in Paris this year. Presuming that Pakistan is moved out of the grey-list in the Paris Plenary, the mechanism is that the process would require the votes of at least 15 of the FATF 36 voting members. At least three votes would be needed to block a move to blacklist Pakistan.
The 36 countries include mostly developed Western nations, but also China, Hong Kong (China), Malaysia, and Turkey. Pakistan will make a diplomatic push to thwart blacklisting. It claims it has done enough on the action plan, banning Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad, and taking over their properties.
The FATF has noted some minor improvements in the AML/CFT regime and the integrated database for currency declaration arrangements. But it has also said that Pakistan must demonstrate that terror financing prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, enhancing the capacity and support for prosecutors and the judiciary.
It must show effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all terrorists designated under UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373, and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing movable and immovable assets, and prohibiting access to funds and financial services. APG identified lack of cooperation among law enforcement agencies at various tiers of Pakistan s government.
The question is why Pakistan thrice approached India within a short time for the resumption of talks and also managed to get a write-up published in China’ssemi-official Global Times? India is a voting member of the FATF and APG, and co-chair of the Joint Group where it is represented by the Director General of India s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Pakistan had asked for India’s removal from the group, citing bias and motivated action, but that demand was rejected. Interestingly, India was not part of the group that moved the resolution to greylist Pakistan last year in Paris. The movers were the US, UK, France, and Germany; China did not oppose. Should India agree to resume the talks, it would give Pakistan leverage for claiming in the Orlando and subsequently Paris meetings that she is engaged in convincing India of her efforts of containing the flow of funds to terrorist organizations based in Pakistan.
Finally, the question is why Pakistan takes the FATF decision so seriously. The answer is that greylisting would mean an annual loss of $ 10 billion to her exchequer and blacklisting would give a powerful blow to her economy making it virtually impossible to revive.
Pakistan faces an estimated annual loss of $10 billion if it stays in the greylist; if blacklisted, its already fragile economy will be dealt a powerful blow. In addition, Pakistan’s $ 6 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be threatened. The IMF has asked Pakistan to show commitment against money laundering and terror financing.
In a simultaneous development, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has registered a case and filed a charge sheet, accusing Pakistan High Commission officials of funding terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir. It named Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen’s Sayyid Salahuddin, besides others, in the charge sheet.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also pursuing terror funding cases, including one against J&K-based businessman Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali, who was arrested by the NIA in August 2017 for allegedly receiving funds from the Pakistani establishment and terror outfits.
Meanwhile, the U.S has made it clear that it will raise the non-action against 26/11 accused Hafiz Saeed. “We’ve addressed this on numerous occasions…our concerns about the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks….that person out in the open is a tremendous concern to the United States,” said the State Department spokesperson.