Stung yet again by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which retained Pakistan on its grey or ‘increased monitoring list’, the country is now planning major steps, the most important being bringing proscribed religious outfits into the political mainstream. It also faces increasing criticism for not addressing issues that led to this action.
The Paris-based global terror watchdog did not provide any reprieve for Pakistan even as it admitted that Islamabad has addressed 26 of the 27 items in its action plan to combat terror-funding.
The lone unaddressed item relates to the need to demonstrate that terror-financing investigation and prosecution target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups.
Pakistan’s civil and martial bureaucracy is constantly discussing the enormity of the situation and how to find ways and means to satisfy the regulator.
Sources in the government confided that the idea of bringing religious outfits into mainstream politics was reportedly first suggested by intelligence agencies in 2016. In 2017, the Milli Muslim League (MML), a political offshoot of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), was formed, but it failed to get public attention.
The MML, facing the challenge of registering with the Election Commission of Pakistan, was barred from contesting 2018 general elections. The political group, however, was formed without dismantling the extremist ideology of JuD. “Mainstreaming of militant groups should not be taken as a step but as a process. Before bringing them into mainstream politics, work should be done on them to give up their extremist ideology.
In the current situation, this process has not even begun yet,” said analyst Nazrul Islam.
Pakistan has attracted strong criticism following the FATF decision, despite the government’s stand that the treatment meted out to it by the global watchdog was too harsh and the country’s efforts have not been recognized enough.
“Pakistan was not telling its people what its officials were being constantly told in FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) meetings. It is time for Pakistan to put in place a mechanism and actual plan to address what needs to be addressed. Buying time by doing what might be important but not required would keep complicating the relationship between Pakistan and international financial institutions and regulators,” Aamir Ghauri, editor of The News, told TOI.
Some observers believe that Pakistan with its troubled economy and other multiple challenges would not get off the FATF grey list before taking certain national and foreign policy-related decisions.