And our diplomatic isolation
The caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhtar was given the bad news while attending FATF’s plenary session in Paris on Wednesday. But Pakistan’s inclusion in the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Islamabad had been told of the impending grey listing back in February. But then the PML-N government’s finance minister Miftah Ismail had glibly understated the significance of the expected penalty by claiming that it made no difference to Pakistan’s economy.
The caretaker government inducted only a few weeks ago was hardly in a position to reverse the inevitable. Years of inertia driven flawed strategic policies of our successive military and civilian leaderships have landed us into this cul de sac.
Miftah Ismail might be right in claiming that in the short run grey listing Islamabad will not affect Pakistan’s economy negatively. But the symbolic fallout of the move should not be underestimated.
True to the signature style of our officialdom the grey listing was but to be expected. As if it was of not much significance at all.
But the small print of the action is being deliberately swept under the carpet. The stark reality that it epitomizes Islamabad’s complete isolation on the world stage is being conveniently overlooked.
Years of inertia driven flawed strategic policies of our successive military and civilian leaderships have landed us into this cul de sac
If at least three members of the FATF had chosen not to support the putsch against Pakistan, the move would have failed. But China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia for different reasons withdrew their support for Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia’s security is so close to our heart that a contingent of Pakistani troops for purpose of training is permanently stationed there. Our former army chief General Raheel Sharif heads the so-called Islamic force based in Riyadh.
But despite the historic cosines Saudi Arabia in exchange of full membership of FATF withdrew its support for Islamabad. Turkey also chose not to support Pakistan’s case. And China simply followed suit on the plea that it did not want to be on the losing side.
On the other hand our foreign office spokesperson while commenting on the FATF’s grey listing has claimed that relations with Washington are on the mend. But facts state otherwise.
The US defence secretary James Mattis only the other day openly expressed dissatisfaction with Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts. Last week the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Alice Wells told a congressional hearing that Islamabad was still on notice to eliminate all terrorists’ sanctuaries from its territory. Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations went a step further by stating that her country is urging Pakistan not to give safe havens to terrorists.
So far as India is concerned it must be very happy to see its efforts to isolate Islamabad bearing fruit. Beijing and New Delhi are cosying up to each other since the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China last April where he was given an effusively warm welcome.
Soon the Chinese president Xi Jinping is to visit India where a red carpet reception with all the fanfare attached is awaiting him. As a prelude a senior Chinese general is due to visit New Delhi soon having obvious strategic implications for Pakistan. The impending summit is being portrayed in both the countries that almost went to war only a few months ago as “ice breaking.”
It is obvious that these developments should be worrisome for both the civilian leadership and the security establishment. The present caretaker government is primarily tasked with the holding of free and fair elections on July 25 and hand over power to an elected government.
In this sense the ball is squarely in the court of the military leadership. Merely adopting an ostrich like attitude and blaming India for our woes is no longer good enough.
The stark reality that it epitomizes Islamabad’s complete isolation on the world stage is being conveniently overlooked
The question that still begs an answer is why the world including our allies does not believe our claims that the Pakistani state is doing all it can to weed out terrorists from its territory and choking them financially without any distinction made. Is it because there are still elements in our policy-making echelons continuing with the policy of cherry picking amongst the so-called jihadsits?
The incompetence shown by the Sharif government in such matters is well documented. But now that the chickens have finally come home to roost, apart from point scoring nothing can be gained by blaming the previous government.
Admittedly Pakistan in the last few years has done a lot to root out terrorists from its badlands without making any distinctions and has rendered heavy sacrifices in the process. The good or bad Taliban ostensibly no longer matter for our security establishment.
But instead of playing the victimhood card – as it is obvious from the predictable reaction to being grey listed – a lot more needs to be done. Not for the sake of the west but for our own good.
If UN designated terrorist groups continue to have a free pass to roam around, merely passing laws and devising regulatory measures to curb them simply will not do. A dismal number of convictions for money laundering and movement of funds for illicit purposes bring into question the resolve of the state not to use such elements as an instrument of policy.
It is really strange that the very day Pakistan was grey listed Islamabad chose to restore the erstwhile banned organization Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and unfreeze the assets of its chief Ahmed Ludhianvi. Last year an alliance of some religious parties called Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) was not allowed to participate in the elections.
But now the MMA has decided to contest from 80 National Assembly seats and 185 provincial assembly seats in the upcoming elections under the banner of the so-called Allah O Akbar Tehreek. Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (Lashkar-e-Taiba) chief Hafiz Saeed’s son and son in-law are contesting elections under the same banner.
Is this – as alleged by some – a deliberate move to purportedly cut into the PML-N’s right wing vote? If so it is an extremely short sighted policy tantamount to: cutting your nose to spite the face.
It seems that one hand of state policy does not know what the other hand is doing. The implications of such puerile moves go far beyond the results of the general elections.
If nothing else Islamabad should heed to the advice of its friends and allies. Otherwise by the time an elected government is ushered in, it will have a tough time grappling with the brewing crisis like situation.
As it is, the country’s economy- with foreign exchange reserves at an all time low and fiscal and current account deficits widening – is in dire straits. This is the time to get our act together bracing for another IMF (International Monetary Fund) bailout.
Rather than losing friends we should be making concerted efforts in winning them. Unless we want have a death wish to become a hermit kingdom.