Brigadier Rajiv Mahna

On October 21, Pakistan’s ruling establishment went into frenzied self-congratulatory mode for the country’s removal from the FATF grey list. Latest brush of the Pakistan with FATF, which commenced in 2018, was its third and longest stay in the grey list. Earlier, it had been placed in the grey list in 2008 and 2012. First, a word about FATF.

It was in the year 1989, when the idea of setting up a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was discussed, during the meeting of G-7. Today this institution has 39 members (37 countries and two regional organizations: the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council). India joined FATF as member in 2010.

Initial mandate of the FATF was to develop policies for combating money laundering (ML). In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing. In April 2012, the scope of FATF charter was enhanced to cover “efforts to counter the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”.In nutshell, by establishing the FATF, world acknowledged the fact that terrorism may be a low-cost option adopted by the rogue actors, but it is not ‘NO COST’ option. Source(s) of financial support to terrorists must be monitored, name shamed and provided with action plans to improve their financial transaction procedures and monitoring systems. In pursuit of these intents, FATF places errant countries in Black (High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action) and Grey Lists (Jurisdictions Subject to Increased Monitoring).

Since 2018, Pakistan had been given two action plans comprising 34 points by FATF. It was expected to institute laws targeting money laundering, and anti-terror laws in line with international requirements.Pakistan also had to maintain a database of terrorists and terror groups operating on its soil and the actions taken against them. Many optimists including those from India may have been hoping that Pakistan’s status of infamy would be upgraded from grey to blacklist. However, pragmatic analysts knew that such action by FATF was a tall order since Pakistan enjoys the presence of friends like China, Malaysia, and Turkey in the forum.

On its’ part, Pakistan did work on legal system, institutional reform process and capacity building to handle terrorism financing.Pakistan also claimed that significant terrorists, including Hafiz Saeed, 26/11 Commander Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, 26/11 planner Sajid Mir and IC-814 hijacking planner Rauf Asghar had been convicted by the courts.Ironically, Pakistan also accepted the failure of the state by admitting that it couldn’t trace JeM chief Masood Azhar, wanted for along list of attacks in India. It submitted to the FATF that he was believed to be operating from Afghanistan, a claim that Taliban denied.

All said and done, lenience shown by the America towards Pakistan, in the recent past, would have certainly influenced FATF in dishing out favourable decision to Pakistan. It does not require extensive analysis to conclude that Pakistan is being rewarded for support provided to US for operations in Afghanistan including the recent drone killing of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al- Zawahiri.

Gallons of ink has been spent in various publications for explaining the interests of the Pakistani state and deep state for nurturing and protecting their ‘Strategic Assets’ – Terrorist Groups. But a dispassionate, non-linear analysis indicates that intolerant religionism injected in the society and institutions, more than four decades ago, due to policies adopted by the military dictator General Zia are the root causes of the terrorism being faced and exported to other countries by Pakistan.

It is not surprising that South Asia Terrorism Portal mentions the existence of 81 Proscribed, 45 Active and 35 Inactive terrorist groups in Pakistan. This systemic spread of violence in the society is constantly denied by Pakistan’s establishment by spreading narratives which involve ghost conspiracies and non-existent foreign hand. So, in and out status of Pakistan from the FATF grey list may not bring any significant difference in the situation on ground.

India should focus its’ diplomatic actions on the other international counter-terrorism mechanism, i.e., inclusion of Pakistan based terrorists in the global sanctioned terrorist list of UNSC. Recent proposals by India at UNSC seeking designation of LeT’s Abdul Rehman Makki, Shahid Mahmood and JeM’s Talha Saeed as global terrorists clearly indicate its’ intent of resolutely pursuing counter Pakistan terrorism agenda via this route. Of course, in this effort India does face holds and blocks put by China at the UNSC. It is apparent that India is making sincere diplomatic efforts for building global consensus against such Chinese maneuvers.  In September, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in his address to the high-level UN General Assembly session that “The United Nations responds to terrorism by sanctioning its perpetrators. Those who politicize the UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime, sometimes even to the extent of defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril. Believe me, they advance neither their own interests nor indeed their reputation”. Similar message was conveyed during UN Counter-Terror Committee Meeting held in Mumbai on 27-28 October. Extreme vigilance and pro-active diplomatic push should be the twin prongs of Indian strategy to blunt the designs of Pakistan Based Terrorists.

Signing off for the week, by quoting Noam Chomsky, “Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”

Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime



“We Said It”

  • FATF has placed Myanmar in the Black List.
  • Situation which has resulted in this action was discussed in the article titled; ‘Myanmar Tragedy’ published in ‘Beyond Boundaries’ column on 1st August 2022.