revised Pakistan’s song-and-dance routine to cover up its sponsorship of terror has begun again. Already Islamabad’s theatrics have devolved into farce. The global terror funding watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), meets this month and in February to review the degree Pakistan has adhered to a FATF action plan. The February plenary will vote to decide whether to remove or keep Pakistan on the terror financing grey list — or even move it to FATF’s blacklist.
Every time FATF meetings loom on the horizon, there is a flurry of faux anti-terrorist activity by Pakistan. Symbolic arrests are routinely conducted before every FATF meeting, and 2021 is proving no different. The new year began with the Punjab state counterterrorism department suddenly remembering that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander and mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 carnage, has been roaming around the state on bail for the past four years and it would look better if he were behind bars. A similar show as made of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Sayeed’s arrest just before FATF met in October last year. A total of 146 Pakistanis are on the United Nations most wanted terrorists list, including Lakhvi and Sayeed. Of those who target India, few are arrested, almost none convicted and none are ever punished.
The degree to which “Pakistani anti-terrorism” is an oxymoron was underlined just last week when the Sindh high court ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three accomplices, all convicted for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Sheikh had already been cleared of murder charges, his death sentence reduced to seven years in jail, and was only under lock and key for a three-month preventive detention. The court struck even this down and let Sheikh go free. Washington responded angrily and Islamabad put Sheikh back behind bars. The entire episode underlines that even in the most blatant cases, the Pakistani system has no interest in punishing the guilty and acts solely to appease external forces. The reasons for this lack of interest in justice are obvious: The all-powerful Pakistani military is the patron of these terror groups and has no interest in its role being outed in a court. Pakistan remains the global centre of state-sponsored terrorism with its present target being Afghanistan. It is hoped this simple fact finds reflection in the deliberations of FATF’s member-states.
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