Once Pakistan comes out of the grey list, it is likely to lead to enhanced terror attacks on Indian soil

New Delhi: GHQ Rawalpindi may be heaving a sigh of relief soon, courtesy the efforts of its patron, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). There has been quiet lobbying within Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as a result of which its 6-day plenary at Berlin, Germany, which is scheduled to take place between 12 June and 17 June, is likely to decide to move Pakistan out from the list of countries under “increased monitoring”, commonly known as its “grey” list. The argument has been informally put forward that such a move is essential to revive Pakistan’s sinking economy. Pakistan has been on the list since June 2018. Sources in Europe say that the real reason behind such a move is pressure from the PRC on the FATF, even though ostensibly the decision will be likely because of a 9 April judgement by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore that awarded the 72-year-old Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, 33 years’ imprisonment in two cases of terror financing that was registered by the Counter Terrorism Department in July 2019.

However, since the sentences will run concurrently, Saeed will complete his sentence in five years, the maximum imprisonment that has been awarded to him. Saeed is also likely to become eligible for parole and remission of sentence if the authorities find his conduct “good”. With Saeed under detention since July 2019, it is expected that he will be a free man maximum by July 2024, if not before that. Meanwhile, the terror groups nursed by GHQ Rawalpindi will continue their operations, not just in India but in other countries as well. Given such a reality, the economic argument was used to persuade higher levels in key members of the task force to ignore facts and give a free pass to Pakistan.

The FATF in its last plenary held in Paris in March, had stated that Pakistan had completed 26 of the 27 action items that it was required to do in its 2018 action plan. The one remaining item that it had not met was investigations in terror funding and prosecutions of senior leaders and commanders of UN designated terrorist groups. Pakistan has also met 6 of the 7 action plans that it was asked to follow in June 2021 related to money laundering, according to FATF.

A presentation that has been prepared by the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which it will present to the FATF plenary, states that Pakistan has completed all the 27 tasks that it was required to do. To ensure that it gets a favourable result, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will be present in Berlin when the plenary takes place.

Pakistan’s Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar, on 22-23 May visited Brussels and interacted with multiple Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and officials at the European Commission and put forward the case for removing Pakistan from the grey list.

While Pakistan has technically met the last action item demanded by the FATF—that of convicting Saeed—what is, however, likely to raise question is the recent report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) report that was released last month which made it clear that Lashkar was very much active and, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief, Masood Azhar, was running multiple camps to train terrorists in the Af-Pak region.

The Sunday Guardian has also been able to confirm the presence of these camps through interactions with members of armed groups that are active in the region. According to them, these camps are being run by officials of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Directorate of ISI, inside Pakistani territory, to the east of the Afghanistan province of Nangarhar.

While Pakistan has accepted the presence of Saeed on its soil, it had told the FATF in February 2020 that Masood Azhar had gone “missing”. However, last month, it was confirmed from its sources in Pakistan that he was very much in Bahawalpur, Punjab province and was just a “little ill”. The FATF’s action to put Pakistan in the grey list, has severally curtailed the ability of groups like Lashkar and Jaish to accumulate finances for themselves, as most of the “donations” they received was done through banking channels in which there were multiple layers of recipients to hide the final recipient. However, once Pakistan comes out of the grey list, it is likely to lead to enhanced terror attacks on Indian soil, which suits China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) interests fine.