6,500 Pakistanis among foreign terrorists fighting in Afghanistan

6,500 Pakistanis among foreign terrorists fighting in Afghanistan

A report released by the United Nation Security Council of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, concerning the Taliban and other associated individuals and entities constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan; claims that up to 6,500 Pakistani nationals are among foreign terrorists fighting in Afghanistan. The fighters are from Pakistan based terrorist organisations Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-i-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Such engagement of foreign terrorist organisations presents security threats to the stability of Afghanistan and the wider South Asia region, ultimately impacting on risks for countries in Europe.

The presence of thousands of foreign terrorists poses a complex challenge for the Taliban to prove its credibility as a counter-terrorism partner. Furthermore, Pakistan’s ambitions for Afghanistan and the support of its Inter-Intelligence Services (ISI) to Pakistan based terrorist organisations, imply that it too wants to be included in the race for control.

Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Khan, in July 2019 on his three-day official visit to the United States, admitted to American lawmakers that successive governments in Pakistan had not told the truth to the United States, in particular over the past 15 years where forty different militant groups were operating in Pakistan.

“Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will, because when you talk about militant groups, we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir. There was a watershed in Pakistani politics. In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban slaughtered 150 schoolchildren at Army Public School (in Peshawar). All the political parties signed the National Action Plan and we all decided after that, that we will not allow any militant groups to operate inside Pakistan.” Khan said during his appearance at the US Institute of Peace, a US-Congress funded think-tank.

Similar rhetoric statements have been made by Pakistan’s Presidents over the years. In his landmark, January 2002 speech, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf vowed to end Pakistan’s use as a base for terrorism, and he criticised religious extremism and intolerance in the country. In the wake of the speech, about 3,300 extremists were detained, though most of these were quickly released. Amongst those released were leaders of both notorious terrorist organisations and Al -Qaeda affiliates Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

UN Security Council reports, supported with evidence and Pakistan’s current failings to comply with the Paris-based FATF’s (Financial Action Task Force) recommendations, will raise concern for counter-terrorism experts. Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations. Pakistan is already listed as a country of concern for the European Union. Such measures have an impact on Pakistan’s global ratings and thus damage confidence in an already weak economy.

The Financial Action Task Force decision to keep the South Asian country on its “grey list” 2018 demonstrates that the body believes that Pakistan’s financial system continues to pose a risk to the international financial system because of “strategic deficiencies” in its ability to prevent terrorism financing and money laundering:

“While noting recent improvements, the FATF again expresses serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its terror financing risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational terror financing risks, more broadly, Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the terror financing risks emanating from the jurisdiction,” FATF stated.

In the period under FATF’s last assessment, a number of terrorist attacks occurred. A number of terrorist groups, including UN-listed groups, operate in Pakistan all of which raise funds through a variety of means including direct support, public fundraising, abuse of Non-Profit Organisations, and through criminal activities. Funds are moved through formal and informal channels. Pakistan’s geographical landscape and porous borders increase its vulnerability to terrorism financing and heighten Pakistan’s terrorism financing risks associated with cash smuggling.

Many security analysts believe that the Government of Pakistan is not serious about fighting terrorism and is only focused on avoiding FATF’s blacklist through lip-service and minimum action without compliance, instead of tackling the issue on a long-term basis.

In February 2020, the Financial Action Task Force gave the administration in Islamabad additional time to avoid blacklisting which could result in a freeze of capital flows to the country and slow progress in refinancing and re-profiling loans from major bilateral creditors.

The Financial Action Task Force is expected to evaluate Pakistan’s progress this month and the presence of Pakistani based terrorist groups in Afghanistan is unlikely to be seen favourably.

Will we at last take action against Pakistani wrongdoings ?

MEP Mariani is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and as former French politicians was appointed Special Representative of France for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009 to 2010 by the President of the Republic.

PC: File Photo

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