Time to outgrow it
‘We are the victim of terrorism rather than its perpetrator, ‘has been the consistent mantra of our officialdom in the face of being accused of just the opposite. A sense of conjured outrage orchestrated by the powers that be permeates through our body politic as well as rump of the media.
This self-serving attitude is buttressed by the ostrich like attitude of the foreign policy and security establishment in the realm of international relations and regional policies. The grey listing by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) is the most recent example of this phenomenon.
Even before the Paris based watchdog that keeps an eye on terror financing could conclude its deliberations our able Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif through a tweet declared victory: we are not being grey listed, he triumphantly declared.
As a result our trusted friends China and Saudi Arabia, who were vociferously opposing the move on behalf of Islamabad, were forced to withdraw their support. Resultantly, Britain, Germany and France led by the US succeeded in their move to put Pakistan on the grey list by June.
Only after a lapse of a couple of days our shell-shocked foreign office finally admitted that Pakistan was indeed being grayed. Despite this fiasco we refused to admit that this was a big setback for Pakistan.
We keep on insisting that the move would not make any difference to the economy as it did not from 2012 to 2015 which is when we were on the same list previously.
The fact is that at that time Pakistan was put on the grey list for failing to legislate anti money laundering laws. Now we are paying the penalty for failing to implement those anti money-laundering laws.
As a result our trusted friends China and Saudi Arabia, who were vociferously opposing the move on behalf of Islamabad, were forced to withdraw their support
If Islamabad is eventually placed on the grey list this is certainly going to hurt. Being in the august company of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Ethiopia is not going to help our already battered economy. Money to and from Pakistan will cone under increased scrutiny owing to much stricter international banking laws and anti money laundering procedures.
The foreign office naively insists that Islamabad is awaiting the road map from FATF to escape its gauntlet in June. It is really strange that we consistently refuse to read the writing on the wall.
Admittedly anticipating that the FATF will move against us, we did take some preemptive steps. This included taking over some of the assets belonging to Hafiz Saeed’s outfits LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and JuD (Jamaat-ud-Dawa) and putting some of the other militant Jihadi outfits on the terrorism roster where they originally belonged. Perhaps a bit too little and too late!
Unfortunately thanks to consistent Indian propaganda regarding how we treat Hafiz Saeed has become the litmus test of our resolve to nab the jhadists.
Washington and Delhi supplanted by our western allies would love to see Hafiz behind bars.
But our policymakers contend that the courts freed the LeT chief owing to lack of evidence against him. Nonetheless it is up to the Pakistani prosecutors to present incontrovertible evidence to the courts against the LeT.
Islamabad is under all kinds of pressures, FATF being the least of them. Washington is employing a clever carrot and stick policy pressurizing Pakistan to move decisively aginst the jihadsits.
President Trump has put Pakistan on notice to stop providing what the US terms as safe havens within its territory. The administration has withheld military assistance on the pretext that Islamabad is abetting the same terrorists and Jihadists for which it is receiving financial and military assistance in order to crush them.
Several US State Department and Department of Defense (DOD) officials are engaging Pakistan. Earlier in the week Lisa Curtis a senior National Security Council official visited Islamabad. After talks with Pakistani officials she repeated the demand that Pakistani forces should act swiftly and decisively against the Haqqani network, LET and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Next week foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua will be in Washington meeting with senior American officials probably as a follow up to the Curtis visit. Hopefully Janjua has something new to tell Washington regarding Curtis’s demands.
On the other hand the US president through his White House spokesperson has again conveyed his dissatisfaction with the progress made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. According to deputy spokesperson Raj Shah Pakistan for the first time is being held accountable for its actions.
Islamabad’s virtual isolation is almost complete. As the FATF greylisting epitomized, the west and even our closest friend China is skeptical about our anti-terrorism credentials. On the regional level as well our relations with New Delhi and Kabul are frayed. Even ties with Iran our Islamic neighbour are a bit frosty.
No matter how much we cry hoarse about our just cause, there are only a few takers (if any) of our self-serving oft-repeated mantras. This is not to suggest we are entirely on the wrong.
But how long can we insist upon swimming against the tide. Obviously there is urgent need for a reset. This is in Pakistan’s own interest rather than the manufactured national interest.
Recently Kabul has offered an olive branch to Islamabad and more importantly to the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani speaking at a peace conference in Kabul attended by Pakistan and India as well offered to recognize the Taliban as a “legitimate political group,” to which Kabul is willing to talk to seek a political solution of the Afghan imbroglio.
Ghani offered unconditional talks with Pakistan as well. Predictably Islamabad has welcomed Afghan president’s bold initiative and has offered to facilitate the Afghan peace process.
The US embroiled in the longest war in its history will also welcome a diplomatic solution. However both Washington and Kabul will have to acknowledge the ground realities.
The Taliban have offered talks to the US as well. Controlling a substantial swath of territory and having influence in the rest they are speaking from a position of strength. Nonetheless even the Taliban are well aware that without a power sharing formula the stalemate will continue.
Islamabad over the years has lost the diplomatic initiative to bring the protagonists on the negotiation table. It is simply no longer considered an honest broker.
Washington is employing a clever carrot and stick policy pressurizing Pakistan to move decisively against the Jihadists
However the Afghan owned and Afghan led talks cannot succeed without Pakistan’s co-operation. Former army chief general Ashfaq Pervez Kayani famously told the then US president Obama on a working visit to Washington, while referring to the Taliban that,” you have the watches and they have the time.”
Now is the time to bridge this gap. In order for that to happen Islamabad should rethink its jaundiced approach .The world is changing very fast, and hence obsolete paradigms simply will not do.
The time has come to pursue economy driven policies rather than security led doctrines. Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state with the fifth largest and well-trained army in the world. It is perfectly capable of safeguarding its security interests without being part of proxy wars.
Instead of harping on the victim syndrome it should feel secure enough to reach out to the world especially its neighbours.