Pakistan continues to be threatened by FATF Blacklisting

Pakistan’s leaders may be relieved that at last week’s meeting of the UN FATF (Financial Action Task Force), Pakistan remained on the ‘grey list’ and was not placed on the ‘black list.’ However, if they paid attention to the remarks of the outgoing President of FATF, Marshall Billingslea, they would not be as sanguine.

According to Billingslea, “Pakistan had “significant” work to do and was, with regard to an action plan agreed in June 2018, “lacking in almost every respect. Pakistan was cautioned in February at the plenary that they had missed almost all of their January milestones. And they were urged to not fail to meet the milestones in May. Unfortunately, Pakistan has yet again missed its May milestones. Now the action plan itself is set to complete in September. So this [the June 16-21 Orlando plenary] was not the plenary where we would discuss a blacklisting issue. This was the plenary where we examine how far and how far behind Pakistan is on its action plan … and I must say they are far behind. There is much that must be done by September. If they fail to implement the action plan by September then the FATF has made clear that we will consider next steps.” Further, “Pakistan does not either appreciate or chooses not to acknowledge the transnational, trans-border terrorist financing risk they face. Even though they did issue an addendum, an annex, to their national risk assessment following the February discussion. There are also a number of other structural and legal changes that have to be undertaken, including successful prosecution of terrorist financing cases.”

If Pakistan is placed on the FATF blacklist “which currently only has Iran and North Korea on it, could severely cripple and isolate a country financially, resulting in a downgraded credit rating and denying it loans and development assistance.”

Maybe it is time for Pakistan’s leadership to collectively decide that support for terrorism needs to be given up at all levels and for all time.

‘More money for Generals but Funding for Universities Faces Cuts’

The federal government has cut its allocation for higher education in the latest budget proposal but there appears to be no desire to pare the defense budget. The federal government “drastically reduced funding for the HEC this year, with overall cuts amounting to Rs18 billion, although Rs13 billion have been allocated for ‘knowledge economy’.” According to a news story “in the ongoing financial year 2018-19, the federal government had allocated Rs45 billion for the HEC’s non-development budget, but later cut that to Rs37 billion.” Investment in people and education are what make or break a society. The recent funding cuts show that what Pakistan’s establishment cares about is solely money for itself – the military – and not for the average Pakistani.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) recently announced that it would stop funding any new public universities. According to HEC Chairman Dr Banuri “no funding will be provided to the new universities. He said that money is tight to fund the operations of existing universities, which makes it even harder to set aside funds for new ones.” According to HEC Chairman Dr Banuri “the federal government did not release the full amount. He said that only Rs18 billion was actually given to the commission, while the remaining budget was not released due to the state of the national economy. In reply to a question, he said the HEC had demanded Rs103 billion from the federal government for recurring grants to public universities, but only Rs59 billion has been marked for the non-development grant. “We have asked the VCs of public universities to increase fees to fill the budget deficit while also banning new hiring,” he said.”

Many Vice chancellors across the country have spoken out against this. “Sufism University VC Dr Perveen Munshi said that although the HEC has issued an NOC for admissions, it gave no grant, while the provincial government has allocated Rs1 billion. Dr Munshi, who is also looking after the affairs of Begum Nusrat Bhutto University, was critical of this move by the HEC, saying that old universities are provided billions of rupees, which leaves no budget for the new universities. Government College University Hyderabad Acting VC Dr Nasiruddin Sheikh also confirmed to The Express Tribune that no funds had been allocated by the HEC or the provincial government for the upcoming fiscal year. He said he had tried to meet the Sindh chief minister to discuss the issue, and had discussed it with the Universities and Boards secretary, but the meetings were fruitless.”

Tie-up Between Russian Psy-War Operatives and Pakistan’s ISI

When the new head of Pakistan notorious spy agency, ISI, faced valid questions about his meddling in Pakistan’s politics, he received enthusiastic endorsement from a Russian writer, Andrew Korybko. In an article carried by the Pakistani newspaper The Nation, Korybko lashed out at Pakistan’s liberals for questioning Lt. General Faiz Hameed’s anti-democratic credentials.

He made the rather unusual argument that if scholars opposed to the Pakistani establishment, such as Ayesha Siddiqa, Husain Haqqani, and Dr. Mohammed Taqi, question General Hameed’s past conduct, he is just the right spy chief for Pakistan.

Why is a Russian psychological-war operative rushing to the defence of the new ISI Chief? And why is a Pakistani newspaper publishing his material with a link to Russian propaganda site www.geopolitica.ru?

The collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia with a global intelligence and manipulation capability, which is currently available on sale to whomever might need it. As a former superpower that is no longer very powerful, Russians are also busy trying to undermine western democracies by sowing chaos within their societies and by causing conflicts within and amongst nations.

According to his bio on the Russian website www.sputniknew.com, “Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and a regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. His other areas of focus include tactics of regime change, color revolutions and unconventional warfare used across the world. His book, “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change”, extensively analyzes the situations in Syria and Ukraine and claims to prove that they represent a new model of strategic warfare being waged by the US.”

Thus, Korybko is not an expert on South Asia or Pakistan but just someone whose job description is to undermine U.S. influence and friendships in the region. If that can be achieved by praising the new ISI chief, he will do it and that is what he has done.

The link between ISI and Russian psy-war operatives is not new. It has been exposed earlier too. Last year, Russian websites like Eurasia Future, had claimed that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in cahoots with Jang Group, ran a smear campaign against the judiciary in Pakistan.

Upon being sued by the Jang Group owner, the Director of Eurasia Future issued an unconditional apology to the Jang Group for publishing a series of reports which he found out were “wholly false, malicious and highly defamatory.”

Journalist Umer Ali had researched and pointed to “a sudden interest by Russian propaganda websites in Pakistani politics – that too ahead of the general elections” held in July 2018.

According to his research, the Director of Eurasia Future, Adam Garrie shared the fake stories about Nawaz Sharif on Twitter, exclaiming: “Make Pakistan Sovereign Again”. In another tweet, he wished Pakistan could get rid of Nawaz Sharif.

Several individuals involved with Eurasia Future are also regular contributors for Sputnik International and Russia Today (RT). Garrie also wrote for Global Village Spaces, a well-known pro-establishment Pakistani news and analysis website registered under the name of Pakistan TV anchor, Moeed Pirzada.

Korybko, the latest defender of ISI’s General Faiz Hameed, is also published on the same set of websites, with the addition of The Nation, which presumably is vulnerable to ISI pressure because of its declining revenues.

Russian writers like Korybko and Russian websites have been putting out ISI propaganda on regional matters as well as domestic politics for quite some time. ISI’s social media troll farms regularly use Russian psy-war techniques.

Knowing Putin’s Russia, none of this activity will be in Pakistan’s benefit. The Psy-war operatives and trolls will take ISI’s money but will move on to greener pastures once that money stops flowing. Meanwhile, the discord and conflict they sow within Pakistan will continue to poison Pakistan for years.

Pakistan’s Generals’ conquer Lord’s Cricket Ground—but with whose money?

Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, is on an official visit to the United Kingdom, ostensibly to discuss military matters. He and his entourage found time to watch Pakistan’s cricket team play their match against South Africa at Lord’s cricket ground on Sunday.

When people wondered how they could afford the tickets the Pakistan army’s chief propagandist, the offensively outspoken DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, tweeted to suggest that not only could he have afforded his own tickets but would also be happy to take any critics to a future cricket match.

As is often the case the general also described Pakistan’s win against South Africa as a victory – strange from the spokesperson of an army that has yet to win anything on the battlefield.

Now a video has surfaced, courtesy a fawning army fan, that shows COAS General Qamar Bajwa and his entourage entering their special box accompanied by British Pakistani businessman and PTI funder Aneel Musarrat. Mr Musarrat is seen with a list of the guests, as well as seems to have their tickets in his hand which he distributes to the entourage.

This raises the question is it appropriate for Pakistan’s senior military officials to entertain themselves to a cricket match while on an official visit and that too at the expense of a businessman of dubious repute? Considering that the Pakistani military holds every Pakistani civilian to very high moral standards this question is definitely one that needs to be answered.

Pakistan, 5 years after Landmark Supreme Court judgment on Religious Minorities

Five years after the landmark Supreme Court judgement on the protection of religious minorities’ rights, Pakistan’s minorities are worse off than they were in 2014. This was the concern expressed at a recent conference held by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) along with other civil society organisations to reiterate the importance of implementing the judgement.

The conference was organised jointly by HRCP along with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), and the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation, was widely attended by civil society, including lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, and members of diplomatic missions.

HRCP’s honorary spokesperson, Mr I A Rehman, “said that the implementation of the Jillani judgement was ‘not just a matter of concern for minorities alone. It is the concern of all Pakistanis.’ He added, ‘States that do not take good care of their minorities, perish. Yet the state has created an environment in which the media is afraid to discuss the problems faced by religious minorities.’”

Peter Jacob, executive director of CSJ described the judgement as a “key catalyst in building pro-minority jurisprudence in Pakistan and criticised the state’s apparent reluctance to proceed on the judgement’s directives.”

The panel “included jurists, rights activists and representatives of different religious communities, spoke at length about the state’s lack of compliance with the Jillani judgment with respect to job quotas for minorities, the protection of sites of worship and the need to eliminate discriminatory material from school and college curricula. Speakers included Mr Imran Kabeer, a representative of Pakistan’s Kalash community; educationist Dr A. H. Nayyar; Mr Parkash Mahtani, a representative of the Hindu community from Sindh; Dr Adnan Rafique; and Bishop Joseph Arshad. Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, impressed on participants the state’s historical and constitutional obligation to protect the interests of religious minorities. Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal said it was not just that the Jillani judgement had to be implemented, but that its ‘ethos must be understood and pursued.’ Former Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that, following the Jillani judgement, ‘we thought that all the decisions would be in accordance with the jurisprudence,’ adding that this had not been the case. HRCP Secretary-General Harris Khalique noted that there was a need to revisit the ‘concept of equal citizenship in Pakistan’s constitution, so that all citizens enjoyed the same rights irrespective of faith.’”