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‘Safe haven’: US report punches holes in Pakistan’s track record against terrorists

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the conference “Rule of Law: The Case of Pakistan” organized by Heinrich Böll Foundation on November 26, 2009 in Moabit, Berlin, Germany. (Stephan Röhl/Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Pakistan continues to serve as a safe haven for regionally focused terrorist groups and allows outfits including the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to operate from its territory, the US State department said in a new report released on Wednesday. The US indictment of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s track record in fighting terrorists comes against the backdrop of Islamabad’s brazen support for terrorists killed in encounters with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign office counts them as “innocents”.

Wednesday’s assessment by the US state department, which counted Pakistan as one of the countries that provide safe harbours for terrorists, is unlikely to go down well with Islamabad that faces a review by the anti-terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force in October. Islamabad was given a four-month reprieve after the FATF had to put off a scheduled review of Pakistan due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In its Congressional-mandated annual report 2019 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department noted that Pakistan had taken modest steps to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused terror groups following the Pulwama suicide bombing in February 2019 that landed Imran Khan in a spot when the Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kashmir. But it hadn’t gone far enough.

“Thus far, however, Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability,” the report said.

It also noted that Pakistan’s pledge under its 2015 action plan to dismantle all terrorist organizations without delay and discrimination was still unfulfilled. Pakistani authorities had indicted Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed and 12 of his associates in December last year but had “made no effort to use domestic authorities to prosecute other terrorist leaders such as JeM founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir, the mastermind of LeT’s 2008 Mumbai attacks”.

Both of them, the report said, “are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”.

“Several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continue to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” the state department report said.

The report indicted the Imran Khan government and military for their inaction, underlining that they “acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country” and did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country.


© 2020 the Hindustan Times