Since 1979, the US Department of State has routinely designated certain countries as ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, indeed countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”.
Apart from countries, the department has also mentioned organisations and individuals to expose, isolate and deny them access to the US financial system. These listings can also assist the law enforcement activities of the US agencies and other governments, and exert pressure on them.
In August 2017, the State Department had designated the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.
Consequently, all the property and interests of the designated individuals, organisations or the nation-state are blocked within the U.S. jurisdiction, and US nationals are prohibited from engaging in any transaction with the said person or entity.
However, the dimensions and dynamics of the term, ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, has an exclusively US perspective, as opposed to an unbiased global outlook. From time-to-time, the list of the ‘rogue’s gallery’ has included countries like Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Libya.
This US-centricity is reflected in the current list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, which includes North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria. These countries boast anti-US regimes.
Therefore, the covert US-CIA bankrolling and armament supplies to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s, operating and controlled from the safe havens in Pakistan did not then brand Pakistan as ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’.
Similarly, the fact that the Sheikhdoms like Saudi Arabia and Qatar which are accused of having supported groups like Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Taliban, Hamas etc., are spared the ignominy of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’.
This convenient leniency afforded by the US is despite knowledge of the antecedents of the Saudis, as was exposed in the 2009 Wikileaks cables which recorded US officials.
It stated: “Arab Gulf donors as a whole ~ of which Saudis are believed to be the most charitable ~ have funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including ISIS and other groups”.
The former Vice President, Joe Biden, once explained the Arab regime support as, “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. The people who were being supplied were Al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis who were coming from other parts of the world”.
Yet countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which have done the most to contribute to the menace of global terror were spared, whereas a country like Iran, which has had no notable footprint in the Afghan war, or was involved in any recent international terror attack, and is actually in the forefront of the fight against ISIS, is constantly on tenterhooks and designated as a ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’.
The historically limited spirit of the ‘axis of evil’, as coined by George W Bush, has sustained itself, even today. Similarly, the US Executive Order 13769, titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’, impacting Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, is also exclusively US-centric.
However a more holistic, composite and unbiased blacklisting of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ should entail countries that impact any other sovereign’s interest and not just that of the US ~ a fact that spared Pakistan (till recent years), as its proven complicity and support to terrorism in India in the 1980s and 90s was either ignored or served motherhood platitudes that basically ensured the continuation of US support for Pakistan, till the ISIS-created terror infrastructure started hitting US interests and lives, directly.
The historical Pakistani pattern of outright denials, ignorance or even incapacity has a narrative of wilful inaction and surreptitious cover for the ‘terror nurseries’, leading to the patented act of duplicity and insincerity in the ‘war on terror’.
Clearly ‘State Sponsorship of Terror’ must encompass both the ‘acts of direct commission’ (arming and training terrorists), as also, the equally dangerous ‘acts of omission’ (providing indirect sanctuary, allowing fund-raising and recruitment).
The complex nature of modern ‘State Sponsorship’ needs a more stringent, sensitive and intolerant appreciation of the passive support systems that could be financial, diplomatic or even moral.
However, the more unbiased and composite blacklist of ‘naming and shaming’ is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body comprising 35 nations and two regional organisations (EU and GCC), which was set up to “set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money-laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system”.
This entails the maintenance of a diplomatically embarrassing ‘gray’ and ‘black’ list of countries that are designated “non-cooperative” in the global fight against money-laundering and terror financing.
Pakistan was put on the ‘gray’ list for three years starting 2012, and it now faces the prospect of re-entering the humiliating list owing to a joint motion proposed by the US, Britain, France and Germany which have exposed Islamabad’s continuing chicanery and incorrigible deceit.
The FATF reprieve till June, when Pakistan is expected to go under the ‘gray’ list, has seen a stunning withdrawal of support for Islamabad, by its ‘all weather friend’ China.
Even the Chinese are wary of Pakistan’s support and inaction towards terrorism that could potentially jeopardise the $ 60 billion investment under the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC).
Clearly, there is no global consensus on defining the criteria of blacklisting countries. It is only when the negative impact of omissions and commissions by another state are felt directly on the recipient state, does it scramble to first diplomatically embarrass the “rogue” and then push for more punitive political, military and economic sanctions.
The progressive and democratic world is on the short-fuse with terrorism. It increasingly disdains the categorization of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists and it further needs to call the bluff on any sophistry and contextualisation of terror, by any nation that tries to do so.
The writer IS Lt Gen PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry