FATF has failed to nail Pakistan

Kanwal Sibal
Kanwal SibalFeb 27, 2018 | 11:25

FATF has failed to nail Pakistan

Pakistan should have been put on the "grey list" by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failing to take required legal, regulatory and operational measures to choke off the funding networks of UN-designated terrorist groups operating from its territory. It did not merit any reprieve because of its deplorable record.

Mixed signals

It was widely speculated that with US, France, Britain and Germany supporting such a move, Pakistan would not escape inclusion. Until the end there was confusion because of mixed signals emanating from FATF deliberations. Pakistan has apparently been given three months more for taking steps as set out by the FATF to clean up its system.


Pakistan was on FATF’s grey list from 2012 to 2015. Why it was felt in 2015 that Pakistan had done enough to fulfil FATF’s criteria to justify removal is unclear when in actual fact Islamabad has even thereafter continued to use terrorism to achieve its political objectives in India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan has allowed Hafiz Saeed with a $10 million US (Rs 64.78 crores) bounty on his head to organise massive public rallies in Islamabad and elsewhere during which exhortations for jihad against the US, India and Israel were made. That funds are needed to organise such rallies is obvious. Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM) figures on the relevant list of UN-designated terrorist organisations but it collects funds openly for jihadi activities against India under the protection of the Pakistani establishment.

Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism spans, in fact, at least three decades, with powerful jihadi organisations cropping up in the country with military and civilian support. These organisations have wide social support owing to the growing radicalisation of Pakistani society.

The LeT, which has morphed into the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and which through front charity organisations musters grass roots support, the JeM, the Haqqani group which is at the forefront of US concerns, are so entrenched in the system and Pakistan’s foreign and security calculus that a three month reprieve by the FATF appears meaningless.


The reprieve appears to be a failure of FATF’s collective will to make Pakistan more accountable immediately. Pakistan cannot and will not take steps other than cosmetic to partially satisfy on paper the technical requirements of the FATF, and will then use that as an argument to get off the hook.

It has successfully used these tactics to release US pressure on terrorism. It has extended selective cooperation so that expectations that it can and will do more are kept alive in US decision making circles, any serious punitive step by the US are avoided and space is retained to continue support for jihadi groups for larger strategic goals vis-a-vis Afghanistan and India.


Mild raps

Trump’s personal castigation of Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” on terrorism, his administration’s unusual bluntness on what it expects from Pakistan, the benchmarks laid out for Islamabad to achieve to avoid punitive consequences, all this would have suggested that the US would do more than merely withhold a limited quantum of military aid to be restored if Pakistan were to cooperate- and reduce the size of economic assistance.

These are mild raps on Pakistan’s knuckles and Islamabad has reacted with disdain. The obvious gap between US statements and action only encourages Pakistan to believe that America’s stakes in Pakistan continue to be high enough for it to hold its hand despite provocations. With China now unswervingly behind it because of the Belt and Road Initiative of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major geopolitical component, Pakistan is doubly encouraged to believe that it has viable options to handle US pressure.


FATF’s failure to nail it will only reinforce Pakistani perceptions that it is too important because of its geopolitical location, its Islamic identity and nuclear capability to be pressured beyond a point, and that it will have room to play political cat and mouse games over terrorism with the US and Europe and continue using terror as state policy against Afghanistan and, of course, India.

Nebulous process

Why a combination of countries such as the US, France, Britain and Germany which constitute four of the G 7 countries that established the FATF in the first place could not ensure the immediate success of their initiative is puzzling. Why they have seemed willing to accept a diplomatic setback of sorts at the hands of China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia is unclear.

This recalls the failure of the US to obtain NSG membership of India, an organisation set up at America’s initiative, as well as the failure of US and key European powers to ensure the designation of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by the relevant UN committee by overcoming China’s repeated opposition.

The FATF’s decision making procedures are nebulous. It works supposedly on the basis of a tacit consensus but also votes. Why three authoritarian powers that oppress their own people politically, with one a fountainhead of extremist ideology and another in league with terrorist organisations to achieve revived imperial objectives, should be able to thwart the US and major European powers is disquieting.

So is the reported bargain with China to give it the vice-presidency of FATF in exchange for not opposing delayed action against Pakistan. The continuing ambivalence of those who would want to turn up the heat on Pakistan and the resoluteness of those who want to shield it gives Islamabad deadly room to manoeuvre.

(Courtesy of Mail Today

Last updated: February 27, 2018 | 11:25
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