AMERICAN government is known for churning out country reports for furthering political objectives, which at times have nothing to do with the subject matter of such reports. Depending upon requirement, such reports are reversed engineered, the objective of the report is defined first and then data is cherry picked to fill in the content that serves as a lead towards preconceived conclusion(s). In this context country reports on Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Minorities issues are part of State Department’s handy toolbox. Poor credibility of such US reports is well known, thus these are not taken seriously. However, such reports are taken as guidelines by various departments of the US government as well as those international institutions where the US has abiding influence/control—say IMF, World Bank, Financial Action Task Force, etc for tightening screws on targeted country(ies). These are anyway, non-binding on other states and most of international institutions, hence only carry nuisance value. Such framings are invariably rejected by the targeted countries when negative; and are praised when carrying positive comments. And the matter rests there.
One such recent document ‘Country Report on Terrorism 2018’ by the US State Department has stated that the Government of Pakistan “failed to significantly limit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) from raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan – and allowed candidates overtly affiliated with LeT front organisations to contest the July general elections”. Report further said that Islamabad failed to implement significant action on Anti-Money laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regimes placed by the UN and hence, was placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. On 05 November, Pakistan expressed disappointment over this report: “The report completely overlooks the factual situation on the ground and the tremendous contribution made and sacrifices rendered by Pakistan over the last two decades in the international struggle against terrorism,” said a statement released by the Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson.
Pakistan has indeed taken extensive legal and administrative measures for the implementation of its obligations under the UNSC 1267 sanctions regime for the freezing of assets and denial of funds and economic resources to all designated entities and individuals”, and it is an ongoing process. Citing the positive role played by Islamabad towards the collective goal of Afghan peace, the Foreign Office maintained that “Pakistan’s positive contribution in this regard has been widely acknowledged, including by the US and its leadership. Any insinuation to the contrary is unwarranted and is inconsistent with the positive trajectory of the bilateral relations”.
Though the US report had noted that Pakistan still faces the threat of terrorism from a number of groups, it failed to mention that most of these groups continue to operate and conduct terrorist activities against Pakistan from across the Afghan and Indian borders. Over the years, such reports emanating from the US are increasingly furthering Indian narrative; even most of the phrases and terms can be traced back to the statements of Indian External Affairs Ministry. And any finger pointing towards Afghanistan in this context appears forbidden in such State Department authored reports. Because for all such acts of Afghanistan, the US being the leader of foreign military coalition occupying Afghanistan, bears at least indirect responsibility. Due to erratic behaviour by President Donald Trump, Afghan peace process is in disarray, and America wants Pakistan to coax Taliban to resume the overt contacts and agree to a lasting ceasefire. Peace process had ended on 7 September with US President Donald Trump tweeting that if the Taliban “cannot agree to a cease-fire during these very important peace talks … then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway.” Currently, a new diplomatic push by the United States, China, Russia and Pakistan is aimed at reviving a process leading to a negotiated solution to the four-decade-old war in Afghanistan. Hence the report under discussion has been floated to increase pressure on Pakistan.
The planned meeting between the Taliban and a delegation representing the Afghan society in China, later this month is a result of Pakistani efforts. However, Pakistan does not have abiding influence on Taliban, and this limitations need to be understood by the US. The US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has recently visited Islamabad and Kabul with the objective of restarting the peace process. Moreover, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have also been to Kabul with an objective to prepare grounds for resuming negotiations with the Taliban. At the same time there is a bipartisan American objective to present, at least, a façade that the incumbent Afghan government won’t be abandoned like Syrian Kurds. A robust push for peace in Afghanistan will need a stable Afghan government and functioning political system. Farce 28 September Afghan presidential election has posed a serious dilemma for both the US and the Taliban. The Taliban attempted to sabotage the process with attacks during campaigning and on the voting day. The election results are in a limbo, due to some ‘technical’ reasons but mainly due to political roadblock that could emerge out of making the results public.
Pakistan is committed to taking concrete counter terrorism actions under its National Action Plan. Pakistan has taken extensive legal and administrative measures for implementation of its obligations under the UNSC 1267 sanctions regime for the freezing of assets and denial of funds and economic resources to all designated entities and individuals. Pakistan’s positive contribution in this regard has been widely acknowledged, including by the United States and its leadership. Any insinuation to the contrary is unwarranted and is inconsistent with the positive trajectory of the bilateral relations. Pakistan has always stressed that global and regional counter-terrorism efforts can be effectively advanced through constructive engagement. Efforts by Pakistan have not only resulted in the elimination of Al-Qaeda from this region, but have also made the world a safer place. Pakistan expects that its commitment, contribution and sacrifices be fully recognized and appreciated in the right perspective.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.