In October last year, the Paris-based international anti-terrorism watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) didn’t blackball Pakistan altogether on the terrorism question, placing Islamabad on its “grey” list for a period of four months. This was leniency being shown since FATF is currently being chaired by China, Pakistan’s best friend.
The grey list categorisation meant that the so-called improvement in Islamabad’s attitude on terrorism was being noted, but clearly it was far from enough. The improvement essentially lay in the Pakistan government taking over scores of seminaries that preach the terrorism gospel. FATF called for further action to show Pakistan's commitment to deal with terror funding and money-laundering for terrorist purposes.
With the four-month grace period ending soon, an anti-terror court in Lahore on Wednesday sentenced Hafiz Saeed, founder-chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the mother outfit of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and an associate to 11 years of rigorous imprisonment on two counts of terror funding and money-laundering, indicating that it was observing the letter of FATF’s instructions. Whether the rigorous imprisonment aspect is observed seriously is moot, considering it is Pakistan, although Saeed has been declared a “global terrorist” by the UN and the US.
With the FATF threat looming, a court has meted out punishment, at least for the record. Years of diplomatic demands by India to proceed against the terrorist mastermind over the Mumbai 26/11 attacks of 2008, in which 166 persons were killed, had produced no results. Extraordinarily, the Pakistani courts always found the evidence insufficient. This time they didn’t as a negative FATF recommendation can mean cutting off of aid from international outfits.
The chief US diplomat for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, called the decision “a step forward” in combating terror funding. Washington needs to please Islamabad as US negotiations with the Taliban in the Afghanistan context are still to be over. India, for its part, must keep up pressure to get justice for the victims of Mumbai.