28 Aug 2020
In July 2018, Pakistan was accused by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of not doing enough to counter terrorism and subsequently was put on FATF’s grey list.
The FATF is an international watchdog against money laundering and financing of terrorism. It is only after the approval of that millions of dollars in grants and aid are given to countries combating terrorism.
The next session of FATF, which has seen delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is due again shortly. Pakistan’s recent admission and subsequent denial of designated global terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, who is accused of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb attacks that claimed the lives of more than 250 and wounded 900 innocent civilians, is testimony to the pitiful state Pakistan has got herself into. Not only that this demonstrates Prime minister Imran Khan’s desperation for seeking financial aid (admitting that Dawood is in Pakistan) but it also reveals that the civilian government and military establishment (which denied Dawood’s presence) are no more on the same page as proclaimed by Imran Khan on July 27, 2018, when his party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), won the general elections.
Pakistan has been on the grey in 2008, 2012 and 2015 as well. Her consistent failure to combat money laundering and terror financing is directly linked with the way, in which Pakistani military dominates and manages politics and business both at home and abroad. Over the past four decades, the Pakistan army has been financing jihad from Afghanistan to the Kashmir Valley. The anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, as well as violence in Kashmir, required an uninterrupted flow of capital. This was earned through drug trafficking.
To start with, Pakistan’s military and the ISI treated Pakistan as a domestic market for the consumption of heroin. The 1980s saw hundreds of thousands falling prey to a drug culture that was encouraged by the Pakistani military establishment.
The governor of the then North Western Frontier Province now Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Lt. Gen. (R) Fazal Haq allegedly became the drug lord and under his direct supervision the military transport department called the National Logistic Cell (NLC), a transport network was set up across the country that would deliver heroin from Afghanistan and the tribal belt in the northwest of the country to the southern seaports in Karachi from where it was smuggled all over the world. The drug business now went global.
Monies earned through drugs were then paid for establishing vast Jihadist terrorist infrastructure across the country, which included funding for setting up Islamic seminaries (madrassas), buying properties to harbour jihadist, bribing politicians, journalists, judiciary and parliamentarians.
However, the monies pouring in through drug smuggling was in such enormous quantity that it became crucial to look for investment opportunities abroad. Hence, hundreds of businesses and properties were bought up in Europe, the Middle East and in America under pseudo names. This gave rise to a new culture of money laundering. The case of Pakistani model Ayyan Ali who, while boarding a private jet to Dubai on March 14, 2015, was caught by the Airport Security Force at Islamabad International airport with a suitcase containing USD 506,800 was just the tip of the iceberg of the money laundering network.
In July 2012, customs officer Habib Ahmed revealed at an international conference organised by Pakistan that “over 200 tonnes of heroin is smuggled via Pakistan a year”. During that period 6,000 tonnes of opium was grown in Afghanistan, which amounted to 90 per cent of the total global produce. Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan army established a worldwide network of handlers who became responsible for the distribution of the drug merchandise. It was in this backdrop that Dawood Ibrahim was brought on board the Pakistan military drug cartel.
Pakistan’s military used its handlers for acts of terrorism as well. In fact, these handlers became an extended arm of Pakistan’s foreign policy manoeuvres. In this regard, Dawood Ibrahim is accused of masterminding the plot hatched by the ISI to create havoc in Mumbai by blowing up several bombs simultaneously across the city. Mumbai attacks came at such a time when Pakistan, through its proxies like Yassin Malik, Shah Geelani, and other jihadists, was increasing its terrorist activities and heroin smuggling across the border into Kashmir.
Dawood Ibrahim moved to Pakistan from where he continued to operate through his clandestine network spread across India. However, due to the backbreaking work of Indian intelligence and Mumbai police, most of Dawood’s network got busted. The funding of ISI terrorist activists, by the D-Syndicate headed by Dawood, gradually dried up and from being a chicken laying golden eggs he turned into a liability for Pakistani military establishment.
Dawood Ibrahim was designated a global terrorist by India and the US in 2003 with a head money of $25 million for his alleged role in Mumbai attacks. So, what forced Pakistan to release a list of 88 terrorists, which included Dawood Ibrahim’s name, and who were living in Pakistan, to declare that their assets had been frozen? Firstly, the Indian government, based on intelligence gathering, has ample proof that Dawood is living in Karachi so it has become a fact that Pakistan cannot deny. Secondly, Dawood is no more an asset for Pakistan and has become a liability that is costing them international support against terrorism, and finally the upcoming FATF session, which most probably will not pull Pakistan out of the grey list, hence, the worry that Pakistan will not get and financial assistance.
It is in the above-mentioned backdrop that a rift has now emerged between the Imran Khan government, which is desperately seeking international financial help to save its debt-ridden economy from sinking further, and the military who fear handing over Dawood to Indian authorities lest he brings to light the atrocities his D-Syndicate committed on the directives of the ISI. Therefore, on one hand, Imran Khan wants to get rid of Dawood to attract the FATF grant but the Military, on the other hand, wants to keep Dawood to protect its own skin.
The Pakistan military would love to see Dawood Ibrahim dead. But if he is assassinated on Pakistani soil it could put Pakistan on the blacklist of FATF. Perhaps this is why the military procured a new Commonwealth of Dominica passport for Dawood Ibrahim. Once out of the country Pakistani ISI can then get him assassinated and throw the blame on India. But now even that possibility seems a farfetched dream since Indian intelligence has already busted ISI’s plan to re-locate their henchman to the Caribbean islands making it impossible for Dawood to travel to that part of the world.
The division between the civil government and the military establishment in Pakistan over handing over Dawood Ibrahim poses a direct threat to Imran Khan’s continuing as the prime minister. In the past ex-prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown and hanged by the military and his daughter, twice the prime minister of the country, Benazir Bhutto and later Nawaz Sharif, three times the prime minister of Pakistan, have all be ousted by the military once their differences failed to resolve through dialogue.
If the military dethrones Imran Khan it might also put an end to the vile state of Pakistan. With armed insurgency in Baluchistan, guerrilla fighting in Sindh, Pashtuns open rebellion against the army’s high handedness, and the recent spate of protests across PoK and GB it seems highly possible that any attempt of dethroning Imran Khan will be the last gasp of a dying state its evil military apparatus. In the final analysis, Pakistan is in a pitiful state.