Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Photo: Reuters
Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Photo: Reuters

No country or religion can in itself be blamed or held responsible for terror attacks, as many people carry aspirations, hopes, fears and desires for peace, and suffer from such attacks as well, so branding of a nation-state in a specific manner must be avoided. Evoking nationalism by stereotyping another state leads to hatred and militarism. That said, responsibility must be fixed on government institutions, for they exercise a monopoly over the use of legitimate force. If the government fails to assert that monopoly, many instances of illegitimate use of force come to notice.

In an attempt to alleviate the mounting international pressure following the terror attacks in Pulwama, Kashmir, perpetrated by a member of a militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), operating from Pakistani soil across the Line of Control from India, Islamabad announced a number of measures, such as detaining a large number of members of various militant groups, closing their facilities and placing them on the list of banned groups. For instance, Pakistan reportedly placed Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, on the list of banned groups.

Pointing to these moves against militant groups, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan was following a National Action Plan formulated in 2014 and further decisions made at the beginning of this year. Second, he maintained that the country would have to fulfill the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a body that works to combat money-laundering and terrorism financing – and comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions on counterterrorism measures.

While on the one hand, Pakistan has been fighting terrorism on its soil as part of the US-led “war on terror” in Afghanistan and has been part of other joint efforts to combat terrorism, such as Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism (PACT) related to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region was mutually developed by the government of Pakistan and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country was placed on the FATF “gray list” last June for sloppy counterterrorism financing laws and enforcement.

Reservations regarding Pakistan’s sincerity on taking on terrorism have been expressed in several quarters. The US and Afghan governments have held Pakistan responsible for continuing insurgencies and instabilities in Afghanistan on several occasions. Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation were originally Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) – the group that was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and was included in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1267 sanctions list.

In February 2018, a presidential ordinance in Pakistan nominally banned LeT/JD and its charity front. Still, the group was allowed to take part in the 2018 general election with another name and front – the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek. Similarly, despite the fact that JeM had been banned in Pakistan since 2002, the group was allowed to operate allegedly with different names.

The US Department of the Treasury has noted that Al Rehmat Trust has been involved in fundraising for JeM, including for militant training and indoctrination at its mosques and madrassas. As of early 2009, Al Rehmat Trust had initiated a donation program in Pakistan to help support families of militants who had been arrested or killed. And in early 2007, it was raising funds on behalf of Khudam-ul Islam, an alias for JeM. Al Rehmat Trust has also provided financial support and other services to the Taliban, including to wounded Taliban fighters from Afghanistan.

Hussain Haqqani’s book India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends? mentions how just a month after the so-called 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008, the then chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Shuja Pasha, told the author, who was then the Pakistani ambassador to the US, that “the people involved in the Mumbai attack were ours but it was not our operation.”

The Pakistani government’s action against terrorism has been perceived as weak and selective, although it has claimed a substantial loss of resources, both human and economic. Prime Minister Imran Khan, responding to US President Donald Trump’s view that the United States was “giving them $1.3 billion a year – which we don’t give them any more, by the way. I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us,” tweeted: “Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US ‘aid’ was a minuscule $20 bn.”

After the Pulwama episode, while US national security adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval that the US and India would work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and other terror groups, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the “urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil.”

Meanwhile, the European Union has sought “clear and sustained” action from Pakistan targeting not only all UN-listed transnational terrorist groups but also individuals claiming responsibility for attacks.

The Chinese veto against a UN resolution to declare JeM founder and leader Masood Azhar a global terrorist not only appeared to isolate Beijing, but was a strange action in the face of the overwhelming global tide against terrorism. Irrespective of the outcome of the resolution, France decided to freeze Azhar’s assets.

There are speculations that Pakistan may be blacklisted by the FATF if it fails to meet the counterterrorism standards set by the watchdog. After Pakistan was placed on the gray list, the country’s counterterrorism efforts were to face three reviews prior to the round to decide whether it is to be blacklisted. Pakistan’s first review was last October and the third will be in June. The meeting on blacklisting will take place next October.

India has been questioning Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorism on the grounds that the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri and other cross-border terror attacks have not been brought to justice despite evidence New Delhi has shared with Islamabad. For its part, the Pakistani government offered a lack of credible evidence against them.

After the Pulwama atrocity, New Delhi not only handed over a dossier on the involvement of JeM’s Masood Azhar in the attack along with the continuing activity of other terror groups targeting India on February 27, questioning Islamabad’s sincerity in combating terrorism, it has demanded third-party verification and handing over of Indian nationals such as Mumbai mafia don Dawood Ibrahim and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Sayeed Salahudeen to India.

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