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Why US threats no longer perturb Pakistan

February 22, 2018 14:03 IST

'If the US intention was to use the FATF platform to isolate Pakistan and impose sanctions against it, that is not going to work when influential countries such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia will not lend support to the US campaign,' says Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif at the State Department, Washington, DC, October 4, 2017. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters
IMAGE: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif at the State Department, Washington, DC, October 4, 2017. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

A concerted move by the United States and its Western allies to bring Pakistan back into the 'watch list' of the so-called Financial Action Task Force -- FATF -- leaps out of a morality play from the Middle Ages -- an allegorical drama with Washington assuming moral attributes.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, FATF is a progeny of the G-7, conceived in 1989 supposedly to study and monitor money-laundering methods and discern compliance.

In more recent decades, it strove to morph into a watchdog on international terrorism and a Western instrument to exercise jurisdiction on 'terrorism financing'.

Pakistan, like many countries, has been in and out of the FATF's watchlist since 2008. It was, curiously, commended in 2013 for making 'sufficient progress' and was dropped from the watchlists since 2014.

 

The move to reinsert Pakistan into the FATA watchlist is political in nature in the present context when the US is crafting coercive instruments to pressure Islamabad to cooperate with the Trump administration's strategy to force a military solution to the Afghan war.

Put differently, it is yet another instance of the double standards that the West adopts on international terrorism.

 

Thus, there is blood in the hands of the US on account of its covert support for extremist groups in Syria, including the Islamic State. But FATF remained indifferent.

Specifically, Russia has openly alleged that the US is sustaining al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which figures in the UN Security Council's black list as a terrorist organisation, in northern Syria and is using ISIS fighters to carve out a 'zone of influence' along the Euphrates river.

Turkey, a NATO ally, alleges that the Kurdish militia in Syria is a franchise of the PKK (which the US too brands as a terrorist organisation) and yet the Pentagon uses it as its proxy in northern Syria's killing fields to push back at the Syrian regime and its allies.

As recently as on Tuesday, February 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated the allegation voiced by Moscow (and Tehran) that the US is secretly ferrying ISIS fighters from Syria and Iraq to northern and eastern Afghanistan on the border regions facing Central Asia.

Clearly, the West's double standards are inflicting colossal damage to the fight against international terrorism.

It is not only that the US resorts to double standards but it cynically uses terrorism as an instrument to advance its global and regional strategies.

Succinctly put, terrorism has become a second tool like human rights for the consolidation of US hegemony in world politics. Look at how indignant the US State Department sounded on the Maldives situation in its latest statement on February 20:

'The United States is disappointed by reports that Maldivian President Yameen has extended the state of emergency in that country for an additional 30 days.'

'The United States continues to call on President Yameen to end the state of emergency, uphold the rule of law, permit the full and proper functioning of the parliament and the judiciary, restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people of Maldives, and respect Maldives' international human rights obligations and commitments.'

Will the Trump administration have the gumption to make a comparable demand on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the bestiality against the Palestinians?

Of course not, because America's political class needs Jewish money, patronage and support in electoral politics.

Such being the state of play, bordering on the cynical, the international community has done well to call the American bluff at the meeting of the FATF in Paris on February 22-23 regarding Pakistan.

The heart of the matter is that terrorism should not be politicised. Its manifestations must be uniformly condemned -- be it in Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Xinjiang or Kashmir.

Second, the struggle against terrorism is ineffectual so long as the root causes of terrorism are not addressed.

Third, most important, this struggle must form part of global governance -- that is, it must be waged from the UN platform.

The FATF belongs to a past when the G-7 ruled the roost in the world order. Today, the G-7 has become a relic of the past.

In fact, France's own credentials to host the FATF are highly suspect, given its bloody record in the Francophone countries and in Libya. Incidentally, French special forces even today operate inside Syria to fuel the conflict.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Pakistan has secured wide support to stall the US move against it at the FATF meet in Paris.

Even the US' NATO ally, Turkey, and its key partner in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, disfavour the US move. So indeed China and Russia.

What emerges out of this sordid drama in Paris is that the US move to isolate Pakistan is turning out to be counterproductive.

On the one hand, the propagandistic move in the FATF exposes that the US' capacity to leverage Pakistani policies is reaching rock bottom. Interestingly, an analysis by the prestigious British security think-tank Royal United Services Institute earlier this week also arrived at the same conclusion:

'The Pakistani military is fully prepared to face any cuts in US military aid and potential threats of cross border incursions by American forces and feels its global recognition and reputation of its counter terror efforts and the military's role is very different to what it was in 2001.'

'As 2018 begins, it is the Americans that need Pakistan and not the other way around. US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis has already said that he is in touch with the Pakistani military, as without them the US forces cannot move their equipment or survive in landlocked Afghanistan.'

'If anything, Trump's tweet has made Pakistan realise it has been wrong to trust America for seven decades. The Pakistanis have given full combat and logistical support to a war for which America has no answers.'

On the other hand, if the US intention was to use the FATF platform to isolate Pakistan and impose sanctions against it, that is also not going to work when influential countries such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia will not lend support to the US campaign.

Finally, if the US intention is to snuff out any nascent regional initiative on Afghanistan by creating discord among the regional States at this inflection point in the 17-year old war, that is going to be wishful thinking, because the overwhelming regional opinion happens to be that a process of national reconciliation in Afghanistan is an imperative need and a top priority in the interest of regional security and stability.

This week's working visit to Moscow by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif indicates that efforts in the direction of mounting a regional initiative to promote intra-Afghan talks are gaining momentum.

Paradoxically, the FATF drama -- the Trump administration's failure to rally international opinion against Pakistan -- can serve a good purpose by highlighting the geopolitical reality that the US stands utterly isolated in forcing a military solution to the Afghan war.

M K Bhadrakumar