After being part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey-list from the period 2012 to 2015, in the FATF’s February session it was decided that Pakistan will be put on the “grey list” once again in June this year. While there has been a lot of debate and speculation regarding the implications of grey-listing on Pakistan’s economy this time around, it is also worth exploring whether this development can motivate a shift in Pakistan’s security and strategic posture. The FATF’s final decision has been of particular importance to several policy analysts since even before the meeting took place, it was anticipated that the US may use the meeting to up the ante of pressure on Islamabad, pushing the Pakistani administration to step up against non-state armed groups like the Haqqani Network. The FATF’s decision has been crucial to several news outlets in discussions concerning the trajectory a revised security calculus should take.
Ever since the Trump administration came to power significant efforts have been made by the US to get the international community on board in coercing Pakistan into rethinking its terror policy. Up until November 2017, Pakistan took these suggestions and remarks forwarded by the Trump administration somewhat lightly as it released Hafiz Saeed- the leader of the Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the man, who according to India, is responsible for leading the 2008 Mumbai attacks- from house arrest.
Subsequently, President Trump started the New Year on Twitter launching a broadside against Pakistan: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
With Trump’s New Year’s Day Tweet, the US demonstrated the lengths to which the US is willing to go in order to make sure it is heard; soon after Trump’s outburst the US suspended assistance of over $1 billion, including military assistance and the release of Coalition Support Funds (CSF) — money which according to several Pakistani officials the US owes to Pakistan for its military operations.
With the new US policy on Pakistan and in an effort to avoid landing on the task force’s list, in early February Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain issued an ordinance allowing the country to act against groups outlawed by the UN Security Council. The ordinance amended Pakistan’s 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act and placed Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) on the list of banned organizations. Consequently, following the ordinance, Pakistan’s authorities led a broad crackdown on several schools, clinics, ambulances, mosques and seminaries belonging to Muslim charities linked to Hafiz Saeed.
It is important to highlight however that JuD has been a declared terrorist front group by the United Nations Security Council since 2008. Pakistani authorities taking steps against the group now, about ten years late, has also not gone unnoticed by Western diplomats.
In fact, several Western diplomats speaking anonymously reportedly said Pakistan had conducted similar operations in the past, only to quiet down once the pressure passed.
“This is a movie that we’ve seen so many times,” said Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center. “Typically what happens is that after a while you basically have new charitable groups that are formed with different names,” he said. “They are allowed to operate freely, until there’s pressure anew on Pakistan to take action against these charities.”
Pakistan as part of its last few attempts at securing its position during upcoming FATF meetings also reached out to allies Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey. For support from Saudi Arabia, for instance, Pakistan after three years of consistently refusing to get involved in the conflict between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, agreed to send an additional 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia. Ultimately however, Turkey was the only country to support Pakistan during the eventual FATF meeting.
Pakistan has faced international pressure before too. What it hasn’t dealt with is its strategic partners China and Saudi Arabia taking a stand against the country’s interests. There is some hope that this may motivate a change in the establishment’s strategic calculus. In recent remarks, Pakistan’s Army Chief acknowledged past mistakes and hinted at changes that would include action on the concerns of the FATF. However, it is important to not get too hopeful; considering that despite pressure in the past as well the country has not yet abandoned its strategy to mainstream the LeT, it is important to remain wary of the extent to which grey listing will impact the country, at least in terms of motivating any drastic changes to its security policy.