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Arrest, free, repeat — the game Pakistan plays before FATF review

Updated August 29, 2020 21:20 IST

Imran Khan may have handled many precarious situations on a cricket field but it is perhaps for the first time that he is jittery on the political pitch.

The mere thought of Pakistan getting blacklisted by the global terror-financing watchdog, the Finance Action Task Force (FATF) is freaking him out.

Thus, it is not very surprising that, besides the opposition, he is also blaming India for giving him sleepless nights. As it is said, the mark of maturity is when you stop blaming others for your problems.

However, expecting maturity from a rogue state would be akin to expecting a decent government there; they thrive on peddling lies.

Sometimes though, they also sense the impending disaster — like the consequences of FATF blacklisting — and that is when the truth comes out.

“People talk about inflation now. If we are placed on the blacklist, we will experience inflation that would ruin our economy, the country would face destruction,” said Khan, the kaptaan of ‘naya Pakistan’, in an interview a couple of days ago.

As it is, the realization dawns only weeks before the five-month grace period given by FATF in April ends and Pakistan’s performance on more than a dozen outstanding benchmarks for foolproof arrangements against money laundering and terror financing is reviewed again.

This was after the Paris-based body had announced in February that Pakistan had only completed 14 of the 27-point action plan to get off the grey list.

So, it isn’t surprising to see the country which exports terror to the world, particularly India, project itself as a ‘swachh Pakistan’ in the days to come.

The massive hoodwinking, cosmetic exercise has already started.

Yesterday, an anti-terrorism court in Lahore convicted three leaders of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) — founded by 26/11 mastermind, terrorist Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, on whom the US has a $10m bounty — in a new case of terror financing registered by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore convicted three leaders of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) — founded by 26/11 mastermind, terrorist Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, on whom the US has a $10m bounty — in a new case of terror financing registered by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD)

The intelligence and investigation wing of Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is also suddenly unearthing money laundering of billions of rupees.

Earlier, on August 18, the Imran Khan-led government had issued two notifications, announcing sanctions on the leaders of JuD, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Taliban, Daesh, Haqqani Group and al-Qaeda. As per the notifications, all movable and immoveable properties of these outfits and individuals (like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Mullah Fazlullah, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Muhammad Yahya Mujahid, Abdul Hakeem Murad, Noor Wali Mehsud, Fazal Raheem Shah, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Khalil Ahmad Haqqani, Yahya Haqqani, Dawood Ibrahim, etc) would be seized, their bank accounts frozen and they’ll be barred from transferring money through financial institutions, purchasing arms and travelling abroad, etc.

Pakistan believes it can fool the world easily. In July 2019, Saeed was arrested on terror financing charges by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan’s Punjab Province, just days ahead of Imran Khan’s first visit to the US as a Prime Minister.

We all know what has happened after that. We all know what would happen after the FATF review in October too. As Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui tweeted last year on Saeed being arrested many times: “Arrest. Free. Repeat.”

The good thing is that now everyone knows about the double game being played by Pakistan.

As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said it yesterday in an event held by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in honour of its founder Darbari S Seth: “All the while, states that have turned the production of terrorists into a primary export have attempted, by dint of bland denials, to paint themselves also as victims of terror. But as we have seen last week, sustained pressure through international mechanisms to prevent the movement of funds for terror groups and their front agencies can work. It has eventually compelled a state complicit in aiding, abetting, training and directing terror groups and associated criminal syndicates to grudgingly acknowledge the presence of wanted terrorists and organized crime leaders on its territory.”

All deadlines will expire soon. Will Pakistan survive the blacklisting? Has it really acted on money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation? Will Dr. Marcus Pleyer of Germany, who assumed the position of President of the FATF in July, succeeding Xiangmin Liu of the People’s Republic of China, nail Pakistan’s malicious lies?

Hope FATF revisits the statement made by US President Donald Trump on January 1, 2018: “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more! The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”

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