Financial Action Task Force Needs to Act on Pakistan’s Perfidy

 By Col Nilesh Kunwar
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With the review of Pakistan’s status by the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] due this month, Islamabad is trying to put its best foot forward in order to extricate itself from the ‘grey list’ of this international terrorism financing watchdog. Yet Pakistan chooses to remain in a perpetual state of denial by dismissing each and every charge that indisputably exposes its symbiotic association with terrorism as motivated disinformation by vested interests. Therefore, this article will restrict to what responsible Pakistanis themselves have to say about their country’s enduring tryst with terrorism, without indulging in peddling falsehood with an ulterior motive of maligning Islamabad.

Terrorism as state policy and Institutional patronage to terrorist groups

Pakistan denies any truck with terrorism. But more than a decade ago [July 2009, to be precise] Pakistani media quoted the then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari as saying, “Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities. Militancy and extremism emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralised, but because they were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives.”

A year later, in an interview conducted by Susanne Koelbl and published in Der Spiegel, when asked: “Why did you form militant underground groups to fight India in Kashmir?” Pakistan’s former President and ex-army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf’s smug reply was “They [terrorist groups] were indeed formed. The government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir.”

On the query, “Does that [India’s reluctance to discuss Kashmir] give Pakistan the right to train underground fighters,” Gen Musharraf’s shocking reply, reminiscent of medieval ages was-“Yes, it is the right of any country to promote its own interests when India is not prepared to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations and is not prepared to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.”

Pakistan has consistently denied patronising terrorist groups. In an undated interview video, Gen Musharraf can be heard openly admitting that “Kashmiris who came to Pakistan received a hero reception here. We used to train them and support them. We considered them as Mujahideen who will fight with the Indian Army. Then, various terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] rose in this period. They were our heroes.”

Another admission that the world has not yet taken with the seriousness that it deserves is Gen Musharraf’s boast of how “In 1979, we had introduced religious militancy in Afghanistan to benefit Pakistan, and to push the Soviets out of the country. We brought Mujahideen from all over the world, we trained them and supplied weapons to them.” Similarly, with his confession that“We trained the Taliban, sent them in. They were our heroes. Haqqani was our hero. Osama bin Laden was our hero. Ayman al-Zawahiri was our hero” is there any room for doubt that Islamabad [Rawalpindi to be precise] has been patronising terrorists all along?

Lastly, Gen Musharraf’s lament that “Then the global environment changed. The world started viewing things differently. Our heroes were turned into villains”illustrates the complete lack of any remorse that the military in Pakistan has for having created Frankensteins that are still terrorising innocent people in Pakistan and elsewhere!

While Gen (retd) Musharraf’s revelation is proof that Pakistan, which claims to have no interference in Kashmir, has been training terrorists and giving them a safe haven to fuel terrorism in the region, the surprising fact that while Pakistan army claims to have killed 3,500 terrorists during its much-hypedwar on terror codenamed ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’, there wasn’t even a single terrorist of the Haqqani network amongst the dead.  This is no mere coincidence but in fact covert connivance.

Waging proxy wars

In another TV interview given to a Pakistani channel, Gen Musharraf bragged that “We have [a] source [in Kashmir] besides the [Pakistan] army…People in Kashmir are fighting against [India]. We just need to invite them.”There can be no two views that those whom Gen Musharraf is referring to as “people fighting in Kashmir” are terrorists and his brag that “we just need to incite them” clearly establishes the fact that terrorists in J&K are being controlled by Rawalpindi and doing what the Pakistan army tells them to do.

That terrorists are executing Islamabad and Rawalpindi’s covert proxy war programme in J&K is further substantiated by Lashkar e Taiba [LeT] co-founder Hafiz Saeed who has admitted that “We support Pakistan, Pakistan government and Pakistan Army in their effort to help the people of Kashmir who don’t have freedom. And we call it jihad.” 

In addition, Soibugh [Budgam] resident Mohammed Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin, the self-styled supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] who is now living in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Pakistan’s military spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] has appointed him the chief of United Jihad Council – an umbrella organisation of 13 terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir and he has gone on record to admit that “We are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.”

Glamourising terrorism-

During the Der Spiegel interview ibid, when asked: “Why, nine years after 9/11, does Pakistan remain a breeding ground for international terrorism?” Gen Musharraf had no qualms in admitting that “We poisoned Pakistani civil society for 10 years when we fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s,” and then went on to proudly claim that ‘It was jihad and we brought in militants from all over the world, with the West and Pakistan together in the lead role.” What the former President of Pakistan doesn’t realise is that making “the West” a co-conspirator doesn’t attenuate Islamabad’s complicity in spawning fundamentalist terrorism that is today threatening world peace.

Before he was killed in an encounter with security forces in July 2016, an HM terrorist named Burhan Wani had in a video message admitted complicity in the killings of security force personnel and law enforcers. He can be heard saying, “As you know, we have carried out attacks since the last month in which we targeted many policemen and army men.” He went on to say that “We had warned them [policemen] last year as well to not take any action against us, but they did not pay heed to it and they continued to act against us and harassed our youth. Now, there will be no warning to anyone and every uniformed man will be attacked.”

Yet not only did the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refer to this self-confessed terrorist as a “vibrant and charismatic Kashmiri leader,” but the Government of Pakistan even went ahead and issued a postal stamp commemorating him as a “Freedom Icon”! But this isn’t the only such incident- readers would recall that just recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan while speaking in the Senate referred to Al Qaida founder and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden a “shaheed” [martyr]!

Protecting terrorist masterminds

Despite the abundance of irrefutable evidence available, Islamabad has consistently been shielding those who have been engineering and executing terrorist activities. That Jamaat ud Dawa [JuD] founder Hafiz Saeed had masterminded the Mumbai attacks is a well-established fact that has been corroborated not only by Ajmal Kasab, a Mumbai attack squad survivor or David Headley but by many other responsible Pakistanis as well.

Maj Gen(retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani who was Pakistan’s National Security Adviser when the Mumbai attacks took place to state that “26/11 Mumbai strikes, carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan, was a classic trans-border terrorist event.”  But he isn’t the only one!

What former Director General Federal Investigation Agency Tariq Khosa who headed the investigation of the Pakistani connection with the Mumbai attacks has revealed in his article titled “Mumbai attacks trial” [Dawn, 03 Aug 2015] is damning. He writes, “The following facts are pertinent. First, Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national, whose place of residence and initial schooling as well as his joining a banned militant organisation was established by the investigators.

Second, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh, and launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified and secured by the investigators. The casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp and duly matched. Third, the fishing trawler used by the terrorists for hijacking an Indian trawler in which they sailed to Mumbai, was brought back to harbour, then painted and concealed. It was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused.

Fourth, the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai harbour contained a patent number through which the investigators traced its import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi sports shop from where a LeT-linked militant purchased it along with the dinghy. The money trail was followed and linked to the accused who was arrested. Fifth, the ops room in Karachi, from where the operation was directed, was also identified and secured by the investigators.

The communications through Voice over Internet Protocol were unearthed. Sixth, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested. Seventh, a couple of foreign-based financiers and facilitators were arrested and brought to face trial.”

The aim of quoting this excerpt verbatim is to draw the attention of FATF to the fact that despite specific and inconvertible proof of LeT involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the Government of Pakistan continues to cite lack of evidence as to the reason behind its failure to persecute Hafiz Saeed and his cohorts responsible for this dastardly attack against humanity that left 166 dead and 293 seriously injured! In a 2018 interview given to Pakistan’s leading English newspaper Dawn, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that “Militant organisations are active in Pakistan” and posed two questions regarding “non-state actors”- one, “should we allow them to cross the border and kill over 150 people in Mumbai?” and two, “Why can’t we complete the trial?”  Shouldn’t the FATF be asking Islamabad these same questions?

While Islamabad may wax eloquent on its ‘zero-tolerance’ for terrorism, but ground realities don’t substantiate its claim. But when countries like China, Turkey, and Malaysia are willing to support it to further their own vested interests, Pakistan knows it can’t be placed on FATF’s ‘blacklist’, because those who framed its laws inexplicably decreed that no matter how compelling the evidence may be, a country can’t be blacklisted if out of its 39 members just three support it!

In view of Islamabad’s outright refusal to clean its Aegean stable of terrorism, while not placing it on the blacklist due to technical reasons is reprehensible, but removing it from the grey list would tantamount to the downright travesty of justice. However, while victims of Pakistan’s terror factories may cry hoarse and complain about the abject apathy of the international community on this issue when there’s no one to take Pakistan to task for patronising terrorism, where’s the need for it to unnecessarily abandon the terrorists whom Pakistan army has nurtured as “strategic assets” to wage proxy wars against its Eastern and Western neighbors?

Tailpiece: in 2019, while speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, a US Congress think-tank, Prime Minister Imran Khan admitted that “we still have about 30,000-40,000-armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.” His revelation raises two questions- one if Pakistan doesn’t provide safe sanctuaries to terrorists, how come it has such a mammoth congregation of combat experienced terrorists? Two, even if we peg the number of these terrorists at the lower figure of 30,000 indicated by Khan and fix the daily expenditure on their subsistence at a measly USD 2 per person, the annual financial outlay on this account would still amount to a whopping USD 21.6 million!

FATF should ask Islamabad the source of such a princely sum of money!