Crunch time in Pakistan
By James M. Dorsey
It’s crunch time in Pakistan. Resolving Pakistan’s financial crisis is likely to require newly appointed prime minister Imran Khan to not only accept an International Monetary Fund (IMF) straightjacket but tackle his and Pakistan’s convoluted relationship to militancy.
With the breeding ground for militancy built into the country’s DNA and Mr. Khan owing his electoral victory in part to the spoiler role played by militants in Pakistani elections, tackling militancy is a tall order. Add to that Mr. Khan’s ultra-conservative social attitudes as well as his abetting of militant concerns.
Mr. Khan, who was once dubbed Taliban Khan because of his, advocacy for the , , and , is nonetheless likely to find that he has no choice.
To secure IMF support, Mr. Khan will have toand ensure removal from the group’s grey list by not only reinforcing anti-money laundering and terrorism finance measures but also rigorously implementing them.
That would require both the acquiescence of Pakistan’s powerful military and a reversal of Mr. Khan’s publicly espoused positions. In many ways, Mr. Khan’s positions have been more in line with those of the military, including his assertion that militancy in Pakistan was the result of the United States’ ill-conceived war on terror rather than a history of support of militant proxies that goes back to Pakistan’s earliest days, than he has often been willing to acknowledge.
“If terrorism is not indigenous to Pakistan, and merely imported, then it follows that— a convenient conclusion for religious hardliners,” said South Asia scholar Ahsan I. Butt.
Juggling the demands of multi-lateral agencies and Pakistan’s reality is likely to trap Mr. Khan in a Catch-22 of centrifugal forces that include the roots of militancy enhanced by what Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells termed “.”
The appeal of the militants’ intolerance and supremacism, rooted in a literal interpretation of the Qur’an and the teachings the Prophet Mohammed, is reinforced by advances in information technology and proliferation of media that in Mr. Castells’ approach created “a world of uncontrolled, confusing change” that compelled people “to regroup around primary identities; religious, ethnic, territorial, (and) national.”
Mr. Khan’s harsh reality is nonetheless likely to be also shaped by Pakistan’s handling of men like Abdul Rehman al-Dakhil, a probable litmus test of the seriousness of its anti-terrorism measures.
An alleged operational leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group sanctioned by both the United Nations and the United States that openly operates through proxies despite being banned in Pakistan, Mr. Al-Dakhil together with two “financial facilitators” was last month identified by the US State Department as a globally designated terrorist.
“Today’s action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Abdul Rehman,” the State Department said.
Hafez Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, constitutes a similar litmus test as Mr. Khan seeks to demonstrate to FATF compliance with agreed measures to counter money-laundering and terrorism finance.
The fact that Mr. Saeed despite having been designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council and the State Department, which put a US$10 million bounty on his head,figured prominently in FATF’s decision to put Pakistan on a grey list .
To demonstrate its sincerity, Pakistan in advance of the election passed the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 2018, which gave groups and individuals, including Mr. Saeed, designated by the UN as international terrorists.
Pakistan also sought to closing Jamaat-ud-Dawa offices and handing control of its madrassas to provincial governments.to perform social and charity work, a pillar of their popularity, by confiscating ambulances operated by his charity,
The fact that Mr. Saeed’s candidates and other militants did not bag National Assembly seats in last month’s election would suggest at first glance that it would be easier for the military and Mr. Khan to radically alter their approach to militancy.
That, however, ignores the significance of the militantsand helping in crucial electoral districts, according to an analysis of the Pakistan Election Commission’s results by constituency as well as a .
It also fails to take into account the extra-parliamentary influence militants garner from their role as spoilers as well as their societal roots.
“In Pakistan,. The religious political parties, particularly the newcomer extremist variety, may not have won big, but they have much to celebrate. Primarily, they can revel in their successful hijacking of this election’s political narratives. Rather than moderate their positions in order to compete, they managed to radicalise part of the mainstream political discourse,” said journalist Huma Yusuf.
Exploiting what governance expert Rashid Chaudhry dubbed “,” Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), campaigning on a platform calling for , emerged from the election as .
TLP, headed by Islamic scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi, garnered four percent of the vote even if it only won two seats in Sindh’s provincial assembly and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Gallup survey said anecdotal evidence showed that TLP votes pushed PML-N to second position in many districts, “one reason for the loss of PML-N seats.”
Not surprisingly, Mr. Khan has echoed TLP’s insistence on the principle of Khatam-i-Nabuwwat, or the finality of Mohammed’s prophethood, that pervades Pakistan’s body politic. “We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” Khan said referring to afor any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the Prophet Muhammad.
Mr. Khan’s newly appointed human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, a controversial academic, who two decades ago advocated nuclear strikes against Indian population centres in the event of a war, by a member of parliament.
TLP supportersin the city of Faisalabad less than a week after Mr. Khan was sworn in, shooting and wounding six people. Supporters of TLP and Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Sialkot in May.
Mr. Khan’s backing of the blasphemy clause that has served as a ramming rod against minorities and a means to whip crowds into a frenzy and at times turn them into lynch mobs and inspired vigilante killings came as no surprise to Mr. Butt, the South Asia scholar, who noted shortly after the election that “Khan’s ideology and beliefs on a host of dimensions are indistinguishable from the religious hard-right.”
Yet, securing international support for inevitable structural reform of the Pakistani economy will have to involve breaking with militancy, implementing international standards in anti-money laundering and terrorism finance, and pushing concepts of pluralism and tolerance that are anathema to the religious hard-right. For Mr. Khan to succeed, that seemingly will amount to having to square a circle.
Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the and just published podcast. James is the author of blog, a with the same title and a co-authored volume, as well as