Pakistan, at any rate on the face of it, has ramped up its occasionally orchestrated pressure on terrorists. The qualifier is used in the context of experience. Friday’s anti-terorism court order, that has sentenced the operations commander of LeT, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who allegedly masterminded the Mumbai outrage (26 November 2008), to five years’ imprisonment, does not after 12 years readily inspire confidence to the east of the Radcliffe Line.
Nor for that matter does the anti-terrorism court’s weekend order to arrest Masood Azhar by 18 January. He has been labelled by the United Nations as a “global terrorist”. Both have been charged with financing terror, though they must be held accountable for other insidious activities no less.
The Lahore court’s action comes at a crucial juncture, specifically when Pakistan’s case is scheduled for review by the Financial Action Task Force, indeed the global terror watchdog that about a year ago had placed the country on what they call the “grey list”. The government in Islamabad has been trying to evade the FATF black list. Should that happen, it will signify yet another turning of the screw on Pakistan, rendering the country to a state of unsplendid isolation.
Lakhvi’s sentencing has swiftly been binned as farcical by India which has internationalised the issue by appealing to the comity of nations to hold Pakistan accountable for its support to cross-border terrorism. Not too long ago, Begum Khaleda’s BNP government in Bangladesh had to contend with a not dissimilar charge by India. The timing of Pakistan’s action on Friday is suggestive of a degree of compulsion on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group meeting and the next FATA plenary in February. “It has become routine for Pakistan to come up with such farcical actions prior to important meetings,” is the core of India’s response.
It remains open to question whether FATA will be convinced with the sentence awarded to Lakhvi. It bears recall that the United Nations had proscribed entities and designated terrorists as proxies for the Pakistani establishment to fulfil its anti-India agenda.
In India’s reckoning, it devolves on the international community to “hold Pakistan to account and ensure that it takes credible action against terror groups, terror infrastructure and individuals”. This marks an assertive forward movement on the part of India after November 2008 when Pakistan’s foreign secretary had sought “credible evidence” on its involvement or that of its nationals in the carnage in Mumbai. Pakistan was placed on the grey list by FATA in June 2018 and its government was asked to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financng by the end of 2019. Far from it. The deadline was extended due to the pandemic. Fundamentally, the problem remains insidious. India will no doubt keep the pressure up.