WASHINGTON: Pakistan took steps in 2020 to combat terrorist funding, constrain India-focused militant groups, and meet demands of the Financial Action Task Force, according to the annual US report on terrorism released on Thursday (FATF).
Terrorist attacks persisted in Pakistan last year, according to the study. The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terrorist Islamic State (IS), and the Balochistan Liberation Army were among the organisations targeted by Pakistani military and security services in counterterrorism operations.
“Pakistan took steps in 2020 to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused militant groups from conducting attacks. Pakistan convicted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and four other senior LeT leaders in multiple terrorism financing cases,” the report said.
Although the study praised Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts, it asserted that terrorist groups targeting Afghanistan and India, such as the Haqqani Network, LeT, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), continued to operate from Pakistani soil.
“Pakistan did not take action against other known terrorists such as JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan,” the report added.
But it also acknowledged that “Pakistan did make positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process, such as encouraging Taliban reductions in violence”.
Noting Pakistan’s efforts to meet the demands put forth by FATF, the report noted: “Pakistan made additional progress in 2020 toward completing its FATF Action Plan, but did not complete all Action Plan items and remained on the FATF ‘grey list’.”
The report claimed the US administration recognised Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and broader regional security in a separate chapter titled “Support for Pakistan,” and
It pointed out that the United States “cooperates with Pakistan on counterterrorism operations, which has helped Pakistan reclaim parts of the country previously held by militant groups”.
TTP and other designated terrorist groups, on the other hand, “continue to conduct attacks against Pakistani military and civilian targets,” according to the report, which also states that “while Pakistan has taken some action against these designated terrorist organisations, some externally focused terrorist groups continue to find safe haven in Pakistan.”
That’s why “the US government continues to suspend most of its security assistance to Pakistan. That suspension remained in effect throughout 2020”, said the report.
Despite the restrictions, the US government maintained a civilian aid portfolio centred on a set of goals, according to the study. “Civilian assistance continued to prioritise civil society; people-to-people exchanges; stabilisation and development on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border; trade and economic growth,including partnering with US businesses; law enforcement, counterterrorism.”
Terrorist finance and associated anti-money laundering, nonproliferation cooperation, and polio and other infectious diseases, like Covid-19, were among the counterterrorism efforts.
The focus of US civilian aid to Pakistan remained on sustainable development and capacity-building, as well as leveraging trade and private sector investment where possible, according to the report.
It also encouraged partnership and a long-term positive impact for the Pakistani people.
People-to-people exchanges, which transitioned mostly to virtual exchanges under Covid-19, assist in the development of mutual understanding and bilateral ties.
“The United States supported civilian law enforcement and the rule of law to help Pakistan disrupt transnational organised crime and terrorist networks and provide security and justice for Pakistani citizens,” the report added.
The report was delivered in Washington by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who warned that “both the number of terrorist attacks and the aggregate number of deaths from those assaults grew by more than 10%” internationally.
He attributed this increase to “the spread of IS branches and networks and Al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Africa”.