There is nothing surprising about Pakistan’s knee-jerk reaction to impose restrictions on global terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, its parent body, Jamaat-udDawa (JuD), and the terrorist mastermind, Hafiz Saeed—it is merely another excuse to hoodwink the international community, and more specifically to escape strictures at the forthcoming UN-mandated Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which will review the long list of commitments made by Pakistan to stem terrorist finance.
This is not the first time that Pakistan’s case is coming up for review. This time it would be eighth year in running when Pakistan’s case will be reviewed by the task force. The English daily, Dawn, in an op-ed pointed out that “the country has been scraping past the successive reviews by offering up one ‘action plan’ after another, but failing to deliver on its commitments.“
The seriousness with which Pakistan takes the UN directives could be gauged from what happened after the last meeting of the task force in November 2017 (at Buenos Aires). The task force asked Pakistan to submit a compliance report, detailing actions taken against terrorist groups and leaders designated by the UN. A week later, Saeed, under house arrest, was released by the Lahore High Court because the government could not bring any credible charges or evidence against the terrorist mastermind. This happened almost nine years after the Mumbai attack (India) in which Saeed and his group were found to be directly involved not only by India but by other countries as well.
Now there seems to be a great hurry on the part of Pakistan, more so the Generals who are used to being feted and praised in capitals across the western world but now face criticisms and ridicule. In a flurry of activities, the government issued a presidential proclamation and then started `attaching` the assets and properties of JuD.
Such actions were taken earlier also, in bits and pieces and even then it was all `show and bluster`. For instance, after the Mumbai attacks, moves were made to seize Saeed’s bank accounts, only to `discover` that there was no money in any of them. Whatever money was there, was moved quietly and swiftly simply because they were alerted. The government then moved to close down the LeT offices only to find that they had shut shops long before; and a handful of workers the police found there were picked up and then let off. Even this pretence was given up by Pakistan within few weeks. The Shahbaz Sharif government magnanimously granted a few million rupees as grants to Saeed’s charity.
Later, whenever the topic of banning LeT and dismantling Saeed’s vast terrorist empire came up, Pakistan’s ready excuse was that it was impossible to take over Saeed’s clinics and ambulances as there would be civilian backlash. Though many western `experts` were taken in by this excuse, it lasted till Osama bin Laden was found enjoying the patronage and protection of Pakistan Army in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
All these years, the only effort Pakistan has been making is to find new excuses. The Generals have been past masters at it but they are running short of their bag of tricks. There is now widespread belief, both within in the country as well as outside, that Pakistan was not serious about putting down terrorists. The Pakistanis are the most affected by this duplicitous stand of their leaders. Every time, the Generals or politicians have opened their mouth about controlling terrorism, there has been a major attack within the country, most of the time targeting minorities but in many cases picking on military assets or major Punjab towns. Once the attack happens, lies fly fast and thick. The last major attack that killed over 130 students of an army schools in Peshawar a few years back, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared, enough was enough and that no distinction would be made between good and bad terrorists. The army generals were even more boastful, declaring that it was an all-out war against terrorists.
What they did really was this: they told their agents –likes of Hafiz Saeed—to lie low, moved the Haqqanis to a safer sanctuary and then bombed the innocent Pashtun men, womenand children, pulverised their villages and towns and made the proud people refugees in their own homeland. The anger of Pashtuns has now boiled over and they have been holding protest rallies and sit-ins in Islamabad for the past several weeks.
If one were to take in to account all the `operations` carried out Pakistan Army in the last decade or so, all claimed to be resounding success, then the only question which needs an answer is: how come terrorists like the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and other are still alive and operational?