The United States on Wednesday said that although Pakistan took “modest steps” in 2019 to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused terrorist groups from conducting large-scale attacks following the Pulwama attack in February, remained a “safe harbour” for other regionally focused terrorist groups.

US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 stated that Pakistan allowed groups targeting Afghanistan as well as India, including Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) and its affiliated front organizations and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory.

“It did not take action against other known terrorists such as JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan,” alleged the State Department.

Pakistan, however, did make some positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process, such as encouraging Taliban reductions in violence. Pakistan made some progress toward meeting the Action Plan requirements for the FATF, allowing it to avoid being blacklisted, but did not complete all Action Plan items in 2019, it said.

Although al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, key figures among the outfit’s global leadership, as well as its regional affiliate al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate from remote locations in the region that historically served as safe havens, it said.

Pakistan is one of the countries that figures in the terrorist safe havens list. Although Pakistan’s National Action Plan calls to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, it said.

“The government and military acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country. Authorities did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country,” said the State Department.

The report also referred to the February 14 Pulwama attack last year on Indian paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir that led to military hostilities and heightened tensions between Delhi and Islamabad.

“In addition to continued terrorist activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, South Asia in 2019 saw volatile mix of insurgent attacks punctuated by major incidents of terrorism in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (now UT of J-K) and in Sri Lanka,” the US report said.

Meanwhile, the State Department also noted that the suspension of US aid to Pakistan, which was announced by President Donald Trump in January 2018, remained in effect throughout 2019.

(With PTI inputs)