The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) after a week-long deliberations and the pleading of its case by Pakistan’s finance minister, adopted a US motion to have Pakistan grey-listed which as usual was supported by her western allies like Britain, France and Germany. In the backdrop of the nosedive in the relations between Pakistan and USA since the announcement of the new Policy on South Asia and Afghanistan by President Trump and the pressure tactics being applied ever since, it was very much expected.

It is most unfortunate that Pakistan which has been the US ally since early fifties and has suffered the most in the war against terrorism, remains a suspect in the eyes of the latter in regards to its indiscrimination action against the terrorist outfits and continues to be accused of providing sanctuaries to the terrorist outfits on her soil.

The reality is that Pakistan has been a sincere partner in the war on terror and has not only dismantled the infrastructure of all the terrorist outfits based in North Waziristan but is also faithfully engaged in eliminating the remnants of their supporters within the country. It has also taken all possible administrative and legal measures to check and block the sources of funding to the terrorist organizations. Pakistan has already promulgated a Presidential Ordinance to amend the anti-terror legislation in order to include all UN-listed individuals and groups in the national listings of proscribed outfits and persons. Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also took measures in keeping with the FATF regulations and on June 20, issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations 2018. The government had also chalked out a comprehensive plan to eradicate terrorist financing which was shared with the international watch-dog. Pakistan also has been cooperating with FATF and a similar assurance was also extended to it by the finance minister which enjoyed the backing of the National Security Council. The FATF decision is reflective of the US rhetoric of do more. It is also indicative of how much influence US can exercise on world bodies like FATF.

However, it is encouraging to note that China a time-tested friend of Pakistan China as usual has come out with a strong support for her efforts to curb terrorism and drying up of funding resources for the terrorist outfits. A spokesman of the Chinese Foreign ministry at a weekly press conference referring to FATF decision said “In recent years Pakistan has actively taken measures to strengthen financial supervision and crack down on terrorist financing and made important progress. We have always believed that the great efforts and sacrifices made by the Pakistan government and people for the fight against terrorism are obvious to all. The international community must give full recognition and trust to these efforts and treat those efforts objectively and impartially instead of relying on criticism and pressure” China actually has criticized the pressure tactics being employed by the US.

The relations between China and Pakistan are far beyond and above the realm of normal diplomatic relations and no terminology in the diplomatic parlance could befittingly describe this fusion of minds and hearts between the two people. Even the epithet of ‘iron-brothers’ that is often mentioned in reiterating the strength of the ties and bonhomie between the two countries, to my mind is not sufficient to put it into proper perspective. China is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan and this friendship has assumed eternity through CPEC, the element which makes all the difference. Perhaps the description given to friendship by Paulo Coelho de Souza, Brazilian lyricist and an eminent literary figure and winner of several international awards truly reflects the bonds between the two countries. Describing friendship he said” Friendship is not about whom you know the longest. It is about who came and never left”

China has not only contributed immensely to economic progress of Pakistan but has also helped her in strengthening its defence capabilities in view of the threats to its security in the rapidly changing security environment in the region. With every passing day the relationship has gone on gathering greater momentum and strength.

In the backdrop of the emerging global scenario Pakistan’s strategic and economic interests would be best served by focusing on her relations with countries of the region, especially China and the regional organizations like the SCO. The US has never been and would never be a trusted friend. Her policies in the region are inimical to our strategic interests as it is propping up Indian as a regional super power and helping her to realize her dream of regional hegemony besides sabotaging CPEC through all possible means.

Pakistan’s addition to SCO has added vitality to the organization as it possesses great potential for global and regional trade as well as economic activities. With a consumer market of 200 million people, vast business potential and a rapidly developing infrastructure it offers SCO enormous opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and fulfilling the vision of the organization. The CPEC which is a pivot of the OBOR also compliments SCO vision of connectivity and economic integration.

SCO is unique in the sense that it is based on a new model of state-to-state relationship that derives its strength from cooperative configuration rather than binding them into a formal alliance like NATO. The resolve of SCO to fight the menace of terrorism, promoting regional peace and security and working for shared economic prosperity are very much in harmony with what Pakistan is looking for and needs desperately. Pakistan’s resolve to look to the region where it belongs, for finding solutions to its economic woes and other debilitating challenges represents a visionary paradigm shift in the conduct of its foreign relations.

That does not mean opting for a rupture of relations with the US. Pakistan should remain engaged with her to smooth out the frictions in the relations between the two countries and continue with its sincere efforts in regards to resolving the Afghan conflict and taking the fight to terrorism to its logical end. Engagement is the name of the game however it was about time to get rid of the ally perception and proceed in view of the existing ground realities. Pakistan belongs to this region and her security and economic prosperity is inextricably linked to it.

 

n          The writer is a freelance columnist.

It is most unfortunate that Pakistan which has been the US ally since early fifties and has suffered the most in the war against terrorism, remains a suspect in the eyes of the latter.