One way or the other, Pakistan is hogging all the eyeballs in the ongoing Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris. Pakistan now has the enviable honour of being the first country that has been the target of a motion passed by four different countries.

A group featuring US, the UK, Germany and France is unique – especially when the subject of their interest happens to be Islamabad – and is the corollary of intense lobbying. On the contrary, Pakistan couldn’t muster any support from the Muslim countries on this particular front – not even those that have been funding the very groups that have put Pakistan in danger of being put on the grey-list.

What Pakistan did do, however, is get President Mamnoon Hussain Monday to issue the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2018 to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, which extends a nationwide ban to the United Nations’ list of terrorist groups.

The development means that Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliate Jamat-ud-Dawa, among the 27 outfits on the UN list, have now been declared as terror groups in Pakistan, with the group’s chief Hafiz Saeed being designated a terrorist in the country.

This was done literally the same week as the FATF meeting was to begin – because subtlety indeed is Islamabad’s foreign policy forte. It manifested similar diplomatic deftness when Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest ahead of last year’s FATF meeting, only to be released by a Lahore High Court order in November – three months before this year’s meet.

The ringleader in upping the counter-terror ante on Pakistan is the US, which under the Trump regime has put words to what was long believed by the Obama regime – but only echoed within chambers of open secrets.

Trump himself has been calling Pakistan ‘sponsor of terror’ since his election campaign, which after becoming the president transformed into the less outrageous, but equally damning, provider of ‘safe havens to terrorists’. This has been firmly underlined in his South Asia policy passed in August and the Happy New Year that he wished Pakistan on Twitter.

There is the question over Islamabad’s tacit support for the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban, which was the subject of repeated allegations after hundreds were killed in two deadly Kabul attacks last month. The answer being obvious to anyone mildly acquainted with the networking along the Af-Pak border.

However, at the top of the pile in the Hafiz Saeed linked groups, which continue to yoyo between Islamabad’s action to appease global pressure and the military establishment’s push to maintain their utility in some form.

As things stand, the establishment has been trying to mainstream Hafiz Saeed’s groups in the shape of the Milli Muslim League, while the civilian leadership has been ostensibly trying to take action against them, in the shape of the pending MML application at the Election Commission of Pakistan, which still hasn’t granted the party an election symbol.

Since the Lashkar-e-Taiba conglomerate is Kashmir bound, and is hence the regular butt of Indian vitriol, means that the establishment has been able to sell the narrative – through their stooges – that take action against these groups is in Indian interests, or worse, ‘dictated by New Delhi’.

As the broken record goes, action against any of these jihadist groups – Kashmir or Kabul bound – is in no one’s greater interest than Pakistan’s. That it needs FATF and its financial threats – a repeat of 2009-2015 – to acquiesce to taking action, that it benefits the most from, is testament to the shambles that Pakistan’s foreign and security policy has been, virtually since its inception, but especially since the past five decades.

At the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich on Saturday, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said “we are harvesting what was sowed forty years back”. Considering that the harvesting began simultaneously with sowing, which has continued unabated for these forty years, underlines the masochistic consensus that Pakistani policymakers have had with regards to ensuring the shambles that it continues to find itself in.


The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.