Pakistan Media Watch

Pakistan's steady drift towards international isolation

picture by Masour Hamid CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


The Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog against money laundering and terror financing, has decided to put Pakistan in “grey list” of the countries with deficiencies in Countering the Finance of Terrorism (CFT) and Anti Money Laundering (AML). The FATF shall formally announce this decision in June 2018 after receiving report from Asia Pacific Group confirming that Pakistan is seriously working to remove the deficiencies. Failing this, Pakistan might confront the risk of being ‘blacklisted’ as North Korea and Iran.

Turkey was the only country that voted in favor of Pakistan. China and Saudia Arabia, after voting for Pakistan in first plenary, were also persuaded to side with collective decision in the unprecedented second session. Initiated by America and Britain, and supported by Germany and France, the decision shows that international community wants Pakistan to really “do more”.

Pakistan remained in the list from 2012 till 2015. Removing Pakistan from the list, the public statement from FATF on February 27, 2015 had declared, “Pakistan will work with APG as it continues to address the full range of AML/CFT issues identified in its mutual evaluation report, in particular, fully implementing UNSC Resolution 1267.” The resolution identifies individuals and organizations as international terrorists.

The media showed images of Hafiz Saeed’s charity organizations being raided, closed down or confiscated. The action, however could not impress President Trump.

Few days before the FATF meeting, Pakistan hurriedly amended Anti-Terrorism Bill through presidential ordinance to include all UN-listed individuals and groups. The media showed images of Hafiz Saeed’s charity organizations being raided, closed down or confiscated. The action, however could not impress President Trump. “We have restored some clarity in our relationship with Pakistan. For the first time we’re holding Pakistan accountable for its actions,” said White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah on Feb 23.

Citing the reason behind debacle, The Dawn columnist Khurram Hussain wrote, “The review mission from the Asia Pacific Group was arriving in January. A review was scheduled for November 2017, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. And in August of 2017, the individual at the centre of the entire controversy with FATF founded his own political party, the Milli Muslim League. In September the party fielded its first candidate in a by-election in Lahore. The candidate, Yaqoob Shaikh, is himself on a US government’s list of sanctioned individuals for their connections to terrorism. In November, Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest. And in December he inaugurated his party office in Lahore, plastering the city with posters.”

Shocks to great strategic minds of Pakistan

It was shocking rather stunning to see that Pakistan’s “true” friends, China and Saudi Arabia, had also sided with “international conspiracy spearheaded by India and America.” Initially, foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, from hightly ‘successful’ visit to Russia had tweeted that Pakistan had defeated America with the support of China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Few days before the voting, Pakistan’s decision to send more troops to Saudi Arabia, flouting consensus decision of joint session of the parliament, was seen as a “gift” to win its vote in FATF.

The expectations from China, on the other hand, surpassed limits of reasonable thinking. Pakistan chose to forget that a few months ago, in the 9th summit of BRICS on September 4, 2017, Chines president, hand in hand with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, had declared LeT (Lashka-e-Taiba), JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) and Haqqani Network as three among many proscribed terrorists groups in South and South West Asia. The list included Al-Qaeda, Afghan and Pakistani Talibans and ETIM as well.

The official photograph of Indian PM and Chines president shaking hands with big smiles was painful as Pakistan’s insightful security experts and genius television anchors were describing Doklam standof as a trap to bring China into war in order to disrupt CPEC. Refusing to see magnitude of Chines trade relations with America and India, the ‘honorful’ experts of Pakistan see an eternal conflict in which China needs strong allies like Pakistan. This Pakistani genius comfortably ignores the fact that China is so scared of Islamic terrorism that it does not allow its Muslim population of Xinjiang to pray in mosques, possess holy Quran, keep Islamic rosery, fast in Ramadan or don any religious symbol including common Islamic names.

The Trump Doctrine versus Bajwa Doctrine

A British think-tank, Royal United Service Institute (RUSI), on Feb 19, released a report claiming that USA threats to Pakistan were futile as, “gone are the days of timidity and scurrying to please the Americans”. The report termed Pakistan’s categorical refusal to “do more” as fundamental feature of the “Bajwa Doctrine”. The report had observed deteriorating relations between two countries especially after Trump’s South Asian policy in August 2017, which asked for more Indian involvement in Afghanistan and alleged Pakistan as patron of 20 terrorist outfits active in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, Trump’s South Asia policy was “disappointing and insultive”.

 General Qamar Javed Bajwa: “Pakistan deserves acknowledgement, respect and confidence for sacrificing more than any other country of the world.”

A few weeks later, speaking on Pakistan’s Defense Day, General Qamar Javed Bajwa responded by saying, “Pakistan deserves acknowledgement, respect and confidence for sacrificing more than any other country of the world.” He mentioned over 50,000 martyrdoms and losses worth $250 billion by Pakistan. Before that, foreign minister, Khawaja Asif had angrily said that US administration’s policies had been formulated by frustrated generals and that American policy can work only if Washington does not allow the Pentagon to play a key role.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon report to US congress, released to media on December 17, declared that  “Washington would also take unilateral steps in areas of divergence with Pakistan”. On December 22, vice president, Mike Pense said President Trump had put Pakistan on notice. “For too long has Pakistan provided safe heavens to Talibans and many terrorist organizations,…but those days are over,” said Mike Pense.

That produced severe backlash in Pakistan. Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, on December 28, said, “what Pakistan received from USA was reimbursement for support to coalition in its fight against Al-Qaeda.” The Foreign Office warned against, “malicious campaign” being used to trivialize Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terror, adding “allies dont put each other on notice. USA is trying to blame Pakistan for its mistakes and defeats in Afghanistan. We cannot bring Afghanistan’s war in Pakistan.” Defense Minister, Khurram Dastigir declared, “in response to free land and air communication, military bases and intelligence cooperation, America has given Pakistan nothing but invective and mistrust”.

The President Trump’s tweet on January 10, however, proved to be real breaking point. He said,   “Pakistan gave America nothing but deceit despite taking $33 b during last 15 years. It is providing safe heaven for the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan,…no more.” On January 4, Washington had announced its intentions to suspend security aid to Pakistan amounting to $2b.

General Bajwa’s speech at Munich Security Conference on February 17 responded all this. He termed present jihadism as misnomer while reminding the west that the Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. “When I was young, Pakistan was as normal a country as any other on the earth. Jacqueline Kennedy flew to Karachi, the Beatles visited us, Queen Elizabeth went to the Khyber Pass to chat with the tribesmen. We were a favourite tourism destination for many. We were hosting world cups of hockey and cricket, besides many other multi-national events. World Bank had termed Pakistan in 1963 as one of the most progressive and dynamic developing countries in Asia”, said General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Markhor invites Bear and Dragon

Writing in Express Tribune on Feb 22, former ambassador, Zamir Akram said, “Unfortunately, Americans still continue to pursue an elusive military victory while using Pakistan as a scapegoat for their failure. Neither direct pressure nor through their Indian and Afghan lackeys will help the US force Pakistan to abandon its national interests in the region.”

The Nation editorial said, “Considering the American lack of appreciation, Islamabad moving closer towards China and Russia is the right move to make. Pakistan has realised timely to get aligned with regional strategic partners to develop its military equipment and doctrines to counter terrorism in the region”, and according to Daily Times editorial on Feb 22, “the message for Washington could not be clearer: the power dynamics in our neck of the woods are visibly shifting; with China already well and truly present and Russia making considerable inroads here, too”. The Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt said, “Pakistan has to fill the vacuum created by America. It seems that Pakistan, China and Russia are going to make a defense block.”

Coming back to senses

With shattered dreams of defeating “imperial” America and “infidel” India and after tasting bitter reality dose from China and Saudi Arabia, the Pakistan’s strategic mindset is waking to the situation and terming it bleak. 

“It is now becoming increasingly clear that Pakistan is drifting towards international isolation mainly due to its policy of using groups designated by the world community as terrorist outfits as instruments of foreign policy.”

Dawn editorial said, “It is now becoming increasingly clear that Pakistan is drifting towards international isolation mainly due to its policy of using groups designated by the world community as terrorist outfits as instruments of foreign policy.” The News editorial announced, “We must do what we can to avoid international censure in the intervening three months but the crackdown on terrorist finance must be done in all honesty for our people.” For The Nation editorial, “It is time that Pakistan actively pushes against these liabilities that are causing us so much damage.”

Analysing the disaster, Daily Times wrote, “Those who formulate Pakistan’s foreign and security policies need to realize that they have landed the country in a cul-de-sac. The only way out for Pakistan is to take meaningful action against the networks and individuals who have for years operated freely within the country despite UN Security Council listing them in the category of the supporters of Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban.”

Writing in the same newspaper, senior analyst, Imtiaz Gul said, “Lesson for Pakistani leaders: Don’t drag your feet on things that are unavoidable and inevitable. Don’t wait until the crisis hits us. Do not duck under excuses. Nor is the tendency to dump failures on external geo-political factors the right response to existential threats. We need pro-active, credible, smart solutions that do not unnecessarily burden our friends, solutions that project us as a forward-looking, honest and responsible member of the global community. No country will stand by you forever. So don’t stretch your friends’ limits. Nor put their patience to unbearable test.”

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