FATF setback: Pakistan is a victim of its own inaction
By: Imtiaz Gul
Pakistan currently resembles the biblical Goliath; big and armed to teeth but stymied by a myriad of factors such as inaction, inefficiency, institutional paralysis, inter-institutional tug of war, ill-preparedness, insufficient vision on top and behavioral intransigence on issues that are virtually existential threats to the country.
The embarrassment suffered at the Paris meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which decided to put Pakistan back in the ‘grey’ watch list from June for insufficient compliance with the globally practiced counter-terror financing framework, was the latest manifestation of all the aforementioned factors.
Both the civilians and the military establishment knew this was coming, but no credible measures for compliance were taken until a presidential decree allowed authorities to symbolically seize all of Jamaatud Dawa related assets, only a few days before the Paris meeting.
None on the top expected China to blink. But it did. And that was pretty logical. If key state institutions refuse to understand and admit Chinese global aspirations and the reasons behind its meteoric economic rise, then issues such as grey-listing would keep embarrassing the country, and no country would stand by us.
So far, the civil-military establishments have been in denial. Now they shall have to work out a plan of action in consultation with the FATF to begin ‘compliance to FATF protocols’. This also includes the primary driver of the ‘grey-listing’ – the Indian concerns. New Delhi has convinced Washington and even Beijing that Pakistan’s compliance to FATF requirements will be credible only if it conclusively acts against the ‘terrorist infrastructure’ (Jamaatud Dawa, Jaishe Mohammad etc). All this is related to our infatuation with Kashmir.
And withdrawal of support at FATF must also make the civil-military elites realise that the policy of using non-state actors for foreign policy objectives (be it the lashkar, the jaish or appeasement of Haqqanis) enjoys zero tolerance among the international community.
In retrospect, there is little doubt that the romance with the word K (read Kashmir) has bled Pakistan profusely. It has generated a dynamic that has become a financial noose around the country’s neck.
For sure, this policy has outlived its utility and it is about time to bury it before it hurts us like t has never before. For too long has the core of decision-makers dragged its feet in drawing lessons from the UN Security Council Resolutions No1,333 (sanctions on Taliban), and No1,267 (sanctions on individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaeda).
Quite tragic that as politicians and the military establishment slug it out on the domestic front, they have blatantly ignored the battering that the country’s image has taken abroad – primarily because of their short-term institutional or personal interests.
Issues such as at least nine closures of the Torkham border within 12 months has also fed into this image as well as into the Indo-US narrative on Pakistan’s ‘mindless actions’ that keep hurting Indian and Afghan interests.
These border closures have not only hurt individual Pakistani and Afghan businessmen but also jeopardised tens of thousands of jobs, directly caused decline in Pakistani exports to Afghanistan, and retaliatory measures by President Ghani (barring Pakistani trucks from entering Afghanistan).
Even on normal days, the chaos on Pakistan’s Torkham and Chamman borders presents a view that reminds you of a border of an under-developed country suffering perpetual bouts of conflicts.
The tug of war of interests among security institutions, customs authorities, and other bureaucracies have all combined to prevent big progress on these critical choke points.
Resultantly, the bilateral trade has diminished from the high of $2.7 billion in 2013 to $1.2 in 2017. Afghan traders have also shifted their trade to Iran and Uzbekistan and China via Iran to avoid losses arising out of frequent border closures.
Similarly, despite hosting Afghan refugees, Pakistan has yet to devise an honourable policy for those born here to Afghan families; expecting these Pakistan-born youth to return to a country totally alien to them.
All these years, officials – both military and civilian – have parroted a stereotypical narrative on refugees, linking them all to crime and terrorism, to make a case for their return. But recently, General Qadir Baloch, the federal minister for SAFRON, told a visiting Afghan delegation that not a single refugee was found involved in terrorism. Why bracket all of them all with terrorism then, and make a case for their repatriation?
Gawadar town represents another example of the cumulative institutional paralysis; while all top-notches are singing the CPEC song, the town itself is struggling with acute electricity and water shortages. Construction of the new airport, for which the Chinese made $259 million available over a year ago, has not started yet. Both provincial and federal authorities are trading allegations and shifting blames for the multiple crises that Gawadar’s residents and businesses are facing. It is an alarming situation that requires all institutions to sit together for a coordinated, smarter and visionary way forward to beat the odds that increasing by the day.