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The US State Department has released its country report on terrorism in Pakistan for 2018. The report is highly critical of Pakistan’s inadequate action in combatting terrorism. The report represents official assessment of the US Congress in assessing the state of terrorism in different countries.
The report is critical of Pakistan on several counts. It says Islamabad has failed to limit the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) significantly “from raising, recruiting and training in Pakistan”. It also finds fault with the Pakistan government for allowing those overtly affiliated with LeT front organizations to contest general elections in July 2018. The purpose of this move was to bring the top terrorists into the national mainstream paving the way for handing over political power to the terrorist organizations. Fortunately, the Pakistan Election Commission disallowed the move. In the field of money laundering and terror financing the report says despite criminalizing such acts “the implementation remains uneven”.
With regard to Afghanistan the report says that Pakistan raised its voice in support of talks between Afghan government and Afghan Taliban which could lead to political reconciliation. But “it did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.”
With regard to Financial Action Task Force, FATF, issue the report says “The authorities failed to uniformly implement UN sanctions related to designated entities and individuals such as LeT and its affiliates which continue to make use of economic resources and raise funds.” The FATF placed Pakistan in the grey list in June last year and refused to take it out of this list at its latest plenary, saying that Pakistan had acted in only 5 of the 27 points it had been tasked to act on before it could be given any relief. The report adds that unlicensed money transfer system persisted throughout the country and was open to abuse by terrorism financiers operating in the cross-border area. Pakistan assured the FATF that it would take effective steps on other points as well before the next deadline.
Referring to Pakistan’s National Action Plan of 2015 to combat terrorism the US State department report suggests that while laws have been put in place on paper which require banks to report suspicious transactions, preventive detention, death penalty for terrorism offences and creation of special anti-terrorism courts, the problem comes at the implementation stage. The report does take note of some anti-terrorism operations conducted by Pakistan in 2018, but stops short of expressing satisfaction on the situation.
Reacting to the scathing criticism, Pakistan’s Foreign office expressed “disappointment” for being accused of not doing enough to curb militant outfits like LeT and Jaish-e Mohammad. It said the report completely overlooks the factual situation on the ground and the contribution made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism during the last 2 decades. The Pak Foreign office statement claims that such measures have not only eliminated Al Qaeda in the region but also made the world a safer place. But it refuses to recall that Pakistan sheltered Osama bin Laden for five long years in Abbottabad’s cantonment area until the US Special Forces knocked him down. Ordinarily, Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped in locating Osama bin Laden, should have been honoured with highest award of the country if Pakistan was really sincere about dealing with terrorism. Instead, he is languishing in a Pakistani jail for the last 9 years.
Despite Pakistan’s claims, the world is fully aware of the double standards adopted by it in dealing with terrorism by distinguishing between good and bad terrorists. It continues to treat good terrorists as an asset for the country and terrorism as a part of its state policy. Unless Islamabad takes visible and verifiable action against the terrorists of all hues, it won’t be able to convince the world of its sincerity in combatting the menace of terrorism.
Script: Ashok Handoo, Political Commentator