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FATF reprieve

Updated February 22, 2018


AN international organisation has forced a reckoning inside Pakistan — once again reminding this country that in an interconnected, interdependent world, pursuing policies that are seen as inimical to regional peace and stability will have damaging consequences.

It appears Pakistan has won a three-month reprieve from the Financial Action Task Force, giving the state further time to comply with new anti-terrorism financial and legal requirements or risk being placed on a watch list.

Security hawks inside Pakistan have interpreted the move in the FATF as an attempt by the US to heap further pressure on Pakistan in alliance with India and have argued that it further demonstrates bad faith on part of the US while underlining the need for Pakistan to build stronger relations with other regional and international powers that are more sympathetic to it.

Certainly, Pakistan can and should pursue stronger ties with friendly and sympathetic countries, but the events in FATF need to be understood in their proper context.

Two issues need to be clarified.

First and foremost, the Pakistani state has a responsibility to the Pakistani people to keep this country safe and secure.

Fundamentally, that means the elimination from Pakistan of all non-state actors who embrace terrorism, militancy and extremism.

Too often, the demand that Pakistan be cleansed of all militants, terrorists and extremists is labelled as an externally driven agenda to weaken this country.

But across the mainstream political spectrum and institutions that comprise the permanent state, there is public unanimity that the long fight against militancy is Pakistan’s own fight that must be waged and won for this state.

It is time, then, for confusion and doubt to be cast aside and the logical implications of a militancy-, terrorism- and extremism-free Pakistan to be taken up: a zero-tolerance policy towards all variants of militancy, terrorism and extremism.

Offshoots of terrorist groups and hiding behind charitable or welfare work should no longer be tolerated.

Second, it is necessary to understand that Pakistan is on the wrong side of a global consensus, not just a policy pursued by countries that it has uneasy ties with.

There are no obvious circumstances in which countries such as China or Russia, for example, will in perpetuity avert their gaze from the presence in Pakistan of militant and terrorist elements that can destabilise the region.

Robust regional competition does not mean regional powers will accept dangerous levels of regional conflict.

Similarly, European countries that Pakistan has stable relations with and that may not always agree with US policy in this region are unlikely to shield Pakistan from common-sense global measures against terror financing and money laundering.

The complicated relationship with the US should not blind Pakistan to the reality that international consensus, too, has not been favourable.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2018