Posted on February 13, 2020, 12:50 PM IST
In a major development Pakistan has pronounced jail term of five and a half years to terrorist financer Hafiz Saeed. This key step comes right before President Trump’s visit to India and the official meet of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary in Paris, which begins in three days from now will deliberate on Pakistan’s blacklisting.
Indications from US State Department suggest a softening of stance by America, which means Pakistan could well stay in the grey list and be penalised no further.
India managed to draw attention to the timing of Saeed's conviction when government sources indicated it has happened on the eve of FATF plenary but US called it an "important step forward" in a tweet by the US State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asia.
While Indian government sources said this was part of a long-pending international obligation of Pakistan to put an end to support for terrorism, US said "the conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associates is an important step forward — both towards holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing.” The tweet also referred to these terrorists as "non-state actors".
On January 24, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells had said any possible blacklisting of Pakistan by FATF "would be devastating for Pakistan's economic reform programme and for its ability to attract investors”. “We've been pleased to see progress by Pakistan towards fulfilling FATF obligations,” Wells said. This gave the first indication of the US stand vis-à-vis Pakistan at the Paris plenary even though Wells added that they would wait for the task force to do its evaluation on Pakistan.
When President Trump visits India, terror and regional security will be high on the agenda. While India is expected to convey its apprehension about Pakistan's sincerity in tackling terror pointing out to continued cross-border terrorism, it will be interesting to note whether US explains to India its stand on Pakistan in FATF.
US, on the other hand, had pushed for Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar to be designated as a terrorist by the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee last year in May soon after the dastardly Pulwama terror attack. Sources has told News18 that it was a US threat of a resolution that had forced China to lift its block on Azhar being designed a proscribed terrorist. However, days before the move in UNSC, a senior US official had told News18 that it will be quid pro quo for India's backing to US on Iran sanctions. India brought down its oil imports from Iran to zero from May last year.