The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) team has arrived in Islamabad to look into the steps Pakistan has taken to get rescued from the grey list. If not removed in time, the black list of which North Korea and Iran are already candidates, will hound Pakistan in ways that will confirm what the US and India have been saying about Pakistan’s penchant for harbouring terrorism. It will not only wash away what Pakistan has achieved in the last five years in its campaign against terrorism but will also push the country into a period where investors are even more reluctant to come to Pakistan, local industrialists are hard put to it to find international markets, the manufacturing sector is suffering because of reduced energy supply, and the international lending and rating agencies become suspicious of Pakistan’s handling of money laundering for terrorism and other purposes. All these conjectures and perceptions would put Pakistan in a fix that might be difficult to overcome for years to come. Can Pakistan afford this roller coaster ride to isolation? Can Pakistan ward off this consistent attack on its intention of not coming clean on terrorists hiding in Pakistan? Why has Pakistan not been able to get its hands clean around its financial monitoring policies? These are some of the lingering questions Pakistan should now find answers to.

It started with the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979. Pakistan ostensibly got into the war for two reasons. One, to protect its borders from being traversed by the Soviets. Two, to aid the Afghans who were unprepared to fight one of the two superpowers. The USA, Saudi Arabia and even China funnelled money into the war to defeat the Soviets. The war ended and the US emerged as the single world superpower. A new World Order emerged, underlined with the hope that history had reached its goal of building liberal institutions – representative governments, free markets and a consumerist culture after eliminating all the other ideological alternatives to liberalism. Not aware that the seeds for future fissions and debacles had been sown in the very place – Afghanistan – that freed the world from the shackles of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama interpreted the spirit of the age as ‘The end of history’. He could not be more mistaken. The warriors who had helped throw the balance of global power in favour of capitalism were now unguarded and on their own. Unchained, but with an ideology that had been immersed deep in their psyche, they posted Islam as an alternative to the liberal world. The strenuous path from communism as an alternative to a liberal capitalist global economy forked into a new journey that would turn out to be more dangerous, complex and unending. Terrorism, as the new enemy would be called, tested Pakistan more than any other country. It could be because of Pakistan’s close proximity to and deep involvement in Afghanistan, but also because of the geostrategic location of the country that had, at times, persuaded it to make policies alienated from reality but moulded in the minds of the Generals raised and trained in the shadows of conflicting ideologies and colonial rule – the womb of two world wars.

And then there was Kashmir, the unresolved problem in the Indo-Pakistan relationship. In Afghanistan, abandoned by the US-led west after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the mujahideen found new space to plan and execute their mission. Pakistan’s agencies were blamed for supporting these groups, and also groups like Lashker-e-Tayyaba, headed by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, for the struggle in Kashmir. In the early 1990s, Kashmir was on fire. A new phase of the struggle for freedom had begun. All fingers were pointed at Pakistan for pouring oil on that fire. The suspicion did not stop there. The killing fields that Afghanistan had become were also suspected to be of Pakistan’s making. The US, the main protagonist of the mess was left unscathed, or behaved as such, since the veneer of being the sole superpower now was thick enough not to shake its conscience. Down the years, when the Afghan issue finally once again caught the attention of world leaders, the Taliban were given the required support to come to power. However, when the Taliban turned into troublemakers, the blame of bringing them to power was laid solely on Pakistan. Even the blame of proliferation of religious seminaries of which the Saudis were both the beneficiary and the sponsor, was laid at Pakistan’s door. The hatred that the US induced in the Muslim world by starting the Gulf War, giving Israel the right to expand its settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, reducing Gaza into a cesspool of human misery, sponsoring militant movements in the Middle East and later reducing to ashes Iraq and Syria were looked at with eyes only half open. Muslims were broken to see their ideological enemies in the west gaining a cultural and military foothold in the Muslim world because of its opportunistic leadership while their people were paying the price with their blood from Kashmir to Palestine to Afghanistan. Al Qaeda that set the stage for the US bombardment on Afghanistan after 9/11, was patronised and given a free run in Syria. The creation of ISIS from the fusion of diverse terror groups happened under the nose of the US in the heart of the Middle East – Iraq and Syria. Yet the onus for terrorism and its further expansion were laid on Pakistan.

Pakistan bore the brunt of the clash of civilisations more profoundly then any other country. We had our 9/11 when more than 300 children at the Army Public School Peshawar were slaughtered. The country was torn to pieces from bomb blasts almost every day from 2007 to 2015, when the state finally decided to act in unison. The National Action Plan, the two military operations in the tribal and urban areas of the country, and the development of laws to discourage money laundering and terror financing have brought life back to Pakistan.

These are just a few but substantial bricks that had laid the foundation for a peaceful Pakistan. Indeed Pakistan has yet to put its economic house in order to get rid of funding from the lending agencies that has given additional power to organisations such as FATF. In the meantime should we expect the world leaders to give Pakistan the space it needs to be valued as a responsible nation?

Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism notwithstanding, a penny for the idea of Pakistan’s current leaders. Why would our friends China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey leave us in a wink to support the US at FATF and at other intergovernmental organizations? Are we really doing enough?


The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore.