All pointers coming out of FATF and its regional Affiliate — The Asia Pacific Group (which met in Australia) — suggest positive outcome for Pakistan’s grey-listing status with the increased prospect of plenary meeting in mid-October in Paris likely to deliver its final verdict favourable for Islamabad putting it in “white” category.
All major world powers including the US, China, UK and Russia in particular, besides, Turkey and Saudi Arabia among others, have been intensely lobbied and they are positive to take Pakistan off the grey list: the recent high profile visit of the top US diplomat Alice Wells to Islamabad reviewing Pakistani efforts on the FATF will finally positively sway the US delegate’s opinion at the FATF. Only India will continue to stick to its rant of “not enough” and “irreversible steps” due to its usual anti-Pakistan policy. France may also converge with India not because of the “demerit” of Pakistan’s compliance but out of its geo-political and economic interests attached to Delhi, though Paris links its stance with its concerns regarding its own terror groups and their links with money laundering as phenomenon.
One spoiler is still lurking below the surface with the current situation in IHK out of control of Delhi, as time goes by, India will be forced to lift curfew and hence ensue likely reaction of Kashmir youth or a trigger a false flag operation. Any Pulwama-type incident may put Pakistan back in the dock as the world’s sense of fairness will succumb to Indian diplomatic and lobbying reach so the international public opinion may wrongly fault Islamabad and sabotage its efforts on the FATF front. After all these international bodies are geo-political entities operating under the weight of political economy of the big powers.
But of recently, Islamabad has been undoubtedly facing huge pressure at the FATF which being a geo-political tool, succumbed to lobbying of India against Pakistan. Delhi wants more and more coercive measures on any international forum including the FATF to substantiate its narrative: it is all the making of Pakistan and its alleged interference, the world is witnessing in Indian Held Kashmir on the boil.
Pakistan’s strategy has been two prong: a) work on actual points and recommendations of the FATF (like banning Hawala system; reforming madaris & nationalising their money supply chain; mainstreaming foot soldiers of banned outfits; quarantining their leaders and retiring mid-level operatives etc), and, b) sensitise delegates of powerful countries to prevent the platform (FATF) being politicised by Indian lobbying—since India has extensive diplomatic reach and lure of market, it’s talking points were even adopted by the US and France in particular when they borrowed the phrase of “irreversible” steps urging Pakistan to ensure their efforts against banned outfits were “irreversible”. But It is a perverse logic as in real life everything is or can be reversed; nevertheless, Islamabad showed highest level of political will by making efforts including its highly controversial decision (i.e the arrest of Hafiz Saeed); however, India continues to ask for more and more to justify its false narrative attributing everything that could go wrong to Pakistan.
But the larger picture is not related to the FATF pressure only; it is the quest of Imran Khan government to open up the country to investment, tourism and streamline visa regime and promote Islamabad’s soft image; for this to happen, Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership have realised to cleanse the country of all organised groups and private entities who are operating below the radar of the state; Afghanistan’s reconciliation effort has made the task of the government easier to help pave way for repatriation of Afghans refugees; this is why recently, Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa during his visit to UK offered London and Washington to verily Pakistan’s anti-terror and anti-militant endeavours as a third party — this offer encompasses all groups who could be actual or potential threat to Afghanistan and Nato forces.
Being partly related to cleaning up externally focused outfits, the highest resolve came in from no other then the Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa who brought in Gen Faiz Hameed as ISI chief. Gen Faiz Hameed’s appointment was made in different time and space — the Modi India is a continued threat to trajectory of Pakistan’s geo-political and geo-economic stability in particular leveraging cells and rogue elements operating outside the government writ to subvert the country internally. Having served the ISI as DG C (Counter terrorism), Gen Faiz Hameed brought in institutional memory, skills and expertise of dealing with purging extremist fringe elements — now absolutely essential to make the paradigm shift of Pakistan moving towards a normal country — beyond the infamy of money laundering and radicalism — and absolutely made Pakistan committed to satisfying all conditions of the FATF in its own interest under the requirements of hitherto moribund National Action Plan (NAP).
Whereas, the then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar under, PM Nawaz Sharif-led government assured the UK and other countries but did not deliver on a single point of the FATF.
Against this backdrop, Pakistani efforts should be understood as part of Islamabad’s endeavour to promote its own national interest: reduce the weight of past’s missteps, neutralise Indian lobbying’s reach and narrative, and sell to the world Pakistan as an attractive destination for investment and tourism. And also Islamabad does not want any more to be bracketed with terror financing country when it has itself lost more than 70,000 civilians and over 10,000 army and para military young men and officers in securing its borders and society from the menace of terrorism. In unison, the current political and army leadership is working hard to get the country out of its geo-political and strategic challenge.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan, and ex-adviser to the Balochistan government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. He is also Chairman of Centre for Geo-Politics & Balochistan.