MonitorsPublished on Feb 19, 2020
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XIII; 7

Pakistan: Bid to appease US ahead of next FATF meet

Ayjaz Wani

Hafiz Saeed, the head of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front organisation Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a most wanted terrorist in India and the US, was convicted by the anti-terrorism court in Lahore on 12 February 2020. Arrested in July 2019 by the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Saeed, along with two of his associates, was slapped two terms of five-and-a-half years of imprisonment with $97 fine in two terror financing cases by Judge Arshad Bhutta.

The sentences of both cases will run concurrently. Convicted under the Anti-terrorism Act, Saeed and his associates were convicted for membership, support and meetings relating to proscribed organisations. Saeed was found guilty of “being part of a banned terrorist outfit” and for “having illegal property”. The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan has filed more than 23 cases against the JuD and its leaders in different cities of Pakistan.

The verdict came at the time when Pakistan faces possible blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) and invite global sanctions for its financial support to international terror organisations thriving in various parts of its country. The ongoing FATF meeting in Paris may decide the fate of Pakistan, which is currently under the FATF grey list.

In and out of FATF

The FATF is an independent, inter-governmental body established by the G-7 countries in its summit meeting held in Paris in July 1989. The FATF develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system from terror funding and curb money laundering activities. From 2001, the FATF has pursued efforts to combat terror funding, money laundering and human trafficking and over the years has become a global policy-making body on these issues with limited role in investigations or prosecutions.

On the basis of rating in 40 different parameters, the FATF can categorise any country in its ‘grey list’ or ‘blacklist’. The grey listing of a country is a warning to that country that it is considered as a safe haven for terror funding and money laundering. If a grey listed country fails to satisfactorily address these this scenario, it can be blacklisted. The FATF blacklisted country faces economic sanctions, international sanctions and cannot get loans from multilateral and multinational organisations such as the IMF, the World Bank and the ADB.

It is a well-known fact that Pakistan’s active support – in cash and kind –has remained unchecked for decades. Globally-designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed have roamed free in the country even after their designation as global terrorists by the UN in December 2008 following the Mumbai attacks. The country has also remained a heaven for international terror outfits like Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT).

Pakistan has a long history of FATF grey listing, having been accorded this global stigma twice in the past – from 2008 to 2010 and then from 2012 to 2015 for making money laundering and terror funding as its foreign policy tool to foment violence and civil disturbance in its neighbourhood. In June 2019, Pakistan was once again placed under the FATF grey list and was given plan of action to be completed by October 2019.

With Pakistan dragging its feet on the mandate, the global watchdog announced that “to date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan”. Islamabad was urged to swiftly complete its action plan by February 2020.

The recent sentencing of Hafiz Sayeed is a sign of how Islamabad is trying desperately to save Pakistan from an imminent blacklisting by creating an impression about its seriousness to implement FATF’s plan of action before the FATF plenary in Paris from 16-21 February. This, despite the positive vibes emanating from the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group of the FATF meeting in Beijing in January 2020.

Hafiz Saeed and US

Hailing from Pakistan’s Sargohda in Punjab, Hafiz Saeed joined Abdur Rasul Sayyaf’s training camp for the Afghan Mujahid in 1979. In the training camp, he met Abdullah Azzam, a founding member of Al Qaeda, who had also mentored Osama bin Laden. In the 1980s, Saeed founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and started fighting in Kashmir against the Indian state in the 1990s. He remained popular in the Af-Pak region due to his terror activities in Kashmir, and also for charitable work.

After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, however, Washington considered Hafiz Saeed as a major security threat for the US. He was declared a global terrorist by the US and the UN over his role in the Mumbai attacks and links with Al Qaeda. Washington also announced a reward of $10 million for any information leading to his arrest or conviction in 2012. Such was Saeed’s clout over the Pakistani government that within days of this announcement, he was seen openly wandering in the military garrisons of Rawalpindi. He was confined under house arrest in 2017 but was subsequently released as Pakistani court refused to extend the period of his confinement.

Post Saeed’s recent sentencing, the US was the first country to applaud Pakistan’s action against him on the same day. In its official twitter handle, the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (BSCA) wrote, “Today’s conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward – both toward holding the LeT accountable for its crimes, and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing”. The Bureau also praised the commitments of Imran Khan to “not allow non-state actors to operate from its (Pakistan’s) soil”.

With the imminent withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan and the Trump administration hinting at reconciliation with the Taliban, good bilateral ties are crucial for both the US and Pakistan. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells during her visit to Pakistan last month also lauded Pakistan’s efforts and the progress made on matters raised by the FATF within a “short period of time”. She also held meetings with the military and political leadership and discussed bilateral ties and the Afghan reconciliation process.

Since Pakistan has been the biggest beneficiary of US funds and with most of the US dominating financial agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank, the action on Saeed by the court may lead to the US taking a softened stance in the FATF meeting. US President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit New Delhi next week.

New Delhi may use the occasion to highlight Pakistan’s romance with terrorists in Afghanistan as well as in Kashmir and its implications on the peace and prosperity of the region. It remains a question whether Pakistan would be “blacklisted” or will the US come to its rescue for its own geo-strategic interests in the region.

India: Lessons from the Delhi elections

Ambar Kumar Ghosh

The high-decibel political contest in the Delhi Assembly elections finally culminated in the impressive win of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the second consecutive time by bagging 62 seats in the 70-member House. The national ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), could win only eight seats. In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the  BJP had won all the  seven parliamentary seats in Delhi.

The Indian National Congress (INC), which ruled the State for a long time till 2013, failed to win any seat in the Assembly elections for the second time. It also suffered a further dent in its vote share. However, as every election unfolds a significant political lesson that has repercussions on the political discourse for all its actors, it is an imperative to delve into the trends that the results offer.

This election bears credence to the evolving dynamics of Indian politics in two fundamental ways. First, it offers an innovative political strategy of countering the appeal of the politically ascendant ruling national political force, BJP. Second, it has clearly succeeded in bringing forward the narratives of governance ahead of politics based on identity and ideology.

Distinctive narrative

Since the 2014 national elections and the spectacular rise of the BJP and its subsequent saga of repeated electoral victories in a number of elections, with few exceptions, the BJP took it upon itself to shape the terrain of political discourse of almost every election. Interestingly, the BJP has also relatively succeeded in pushing through its agenda as the driving issue of many elections by making it effectively resonate with the public.

In this election, as already witnessed in some of the other State elections recently, the AAP have very effectively succeeded in creating their own distinctive and effective political narrative and sticking to it by not succumbing to BJP’s political mobilisation tactics. And the narrative that the AAP offered was entirely premised upon the issues of governance comprising local issues of development and everyday necessities of a better life.

The AAP’s electoral campaign in Delhi which was entirely premised upon what their leader Arvind Kejriwal calls the ‘politics of performance’ that highlighted the work of the Delhi government in the realm of improving education infrastructure, health facilities, free electricity for modest customers and better drinking water availability. The BJP’s attempt to further its political agendas was based on “identity politics” involving national security, nationalism, the dilution of Article 370 in Kashmir and its much-discussed campaign against the ongoing anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests taking place in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.

As the results suggest, the AAP’s agenda of governance managed effectively to sway the imagination of the electorate in its favour. Hence, at least at the regional level, the recently held State elections indicate that the ‘politics of performance’ at the State level appears to majorly dominate the political discourse over the national issues premised upon ‘politics of identity’.

Evolving discourse

The deeper analysis of the results should be, however, comprehended with some caution. The electoral victory of the AAP and few other regional parties in the last few State elections shouldn’t be seen as a referendum against BJP’s controversial policies revolving around cultural nationalism and national security like the dilution of Article 370 and the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

It is important to bear in mind that the BJP’s political appeal at the national level remains largely unblemished as any counter narrative or alternative leadership at the national level is yet to consolidate itself. While the AAP’s campaign might be effective in capturing the attention of the electorate in Delhi, it is important to note that the AAP didn’t really confront the BJP’s politics, rather it meticulously avoided it. However, the evolving pattern in which a more conscious Indian electorate is being able to differentiate between the national elections and State-level elections and also a sharp distinction between the issues and actors dominating the elections at two levels, is befitting of a diverse polity.

This trend reassures and reinforces the fact that in the face of a domineering national political force, it is the regional forces that reasserts themselves to counter the risks of political homogeneity, albeit in their own respective provincial turfs.

Country Reports


US, Taliban nearing a deal

On 10 February 2020, President Trump gave a conditional green signal to the signing of a peace deal with the Taliban, which would initiate the process of bringing remaining US troops back home from Afghanistan. The condition demands a 7-day period of significantly reduced violence, meant to test the ability of both sides to control their cadres. The week-long partial ceasefire, if executed successfully, will be followed by the official signing of the deal and preparation for intra-Afghan talks that will decide the political future of the country.

Sexual assaults go unpunished

Human Rights Watch reported that Afghan authorities had failed to prosecute sexual assault implicating powerful people, citing two recent cases of abuse and subsequent cover up of the act, by senior officials of the Afghan Football Federation. The human rights body implored the Afghan government to take immediate steps to provide justice, support victims and protect witnesses in such cases, to establish a strict precedent.

Suicide-bomber targets military academy

On 11 February 2020, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of the Marshal Fahim Military Academy, located on the outskirts of Kabul. As informed by the Interior Ministry, the attack killed six people – two civilians and four military personnel – and left 12 others injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.


Terror operatives arrested

Five operatives of the banned militant group Ansar al-Islam arrested this week.  Security agencies claimed that the group was conspiring to attack religious establishments in the capital Dhaka. The militant arrested had come from different parts of the country to Dhaka and was receiving training to carry out clandestine activities in the capital.

Saudis to invest $ 30-b

Saudi Arabian companies are likely to invest around $30 billion in various businesses in the country. A 40-member Saudi delegation, led by Deputy Minister for International Affairs Mahir Al-Gassin, is visiting Bangladesh to explore the potential of the investment. The prominent Saudi companies who are participating in the delegation include Saudi Aramco, ACWA Power, Honey and Health, Engineering Dimension Com, Aljomaih Energy and Water Company, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have convened a two-day Joint Economic Council meeting in which issues regarding investment were discussed at length.

Repatriation not soon

Expressing pessimism, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen observed that the country was not going to have any good news regarding the repatriation of Rohingyas any time soon. The minister, however, informed that Bangladesh is doing its best and he was hopeful of resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis in the distant future. Around 1 million Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh since August 2017 after Myanmar security forces came down heavily on the community in retaliation to incidents of attack by a group of Rohingya militant groups on the camps of Myanmar army in Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh.


Penal Code Bill cleared

The National Council on 10 February unanimously passed the Penal Code Amendment Bill of Bhutan 2019. The legislative committee of the House was last month asked to review and rework on amendment of 13 of the Penal Code’s 51 sections. Unnatural sex (213) and the grading of unnatural sex (214) were among the most debated sections.

Fiscal Bill passed

The National Council (NC), with majority votes, adopted the Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill 2020 on 12 February. The members, however, proposed to amend section 2 of the Bill. Economic Affairs Committee of NC proposed amending the commencement of the Act as per section 46B of the Public Finance (Amendment) Act 2012 against the National Assembly’s (NA) amendment. NA’s amendment was that the Act would commence retroactively from the income year 2019.

Exempted from SDF fee

The National Council adopted the Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020. With this, leisure tourists visiting 11 selected dzongkhags will be exempted from payment of applicable tourism levy for the duration of their stay. The NC added 4 more dzongkhags to the list of 11 exempted dzongkhags  by NA. That means regional tourists now have to pay SDF of Nu 1,200 only for Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue and Bumthang. An international leisure tourist shall be liable to pay tourism levy of USD 65 per night halt and Nu 1,200 per halt for a regional leisure tourist.


AAP wins in Delhi

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal retained power in Delhi in the recently concluded Assembly elections whose results were declared on 11 February. The AAP swept the polls by wining 62 out of the 70 seats in the elections with around 54 per cent vote share. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was able to win 8 seats but has increased their vote share in comparison to the 2015 Assembly elections. The Indian National Congress (INC) have failed to win any seat in this election and suffered major decline in its vote share in Delhi.


‘Politicising the police’

The proposed Police Bill presented to Parliament by a ruling MDP member seeks to restrict the operational independence of the police, Opposition Jumhooree Party member of the House and former national police chief, Abdulla Riyaz, has said in a tweet.  Jailed former President Abdulla Yameen’s PPM member Ahmed Shiyam described it ‘precarious Bill’, and said that the Bill was aimed at politicising the police services in a way the current government wishes, and to get rid of the long-serving police officials in a bid to provide its control to certain officials. “Once the new act is ratified, the systematic policies currently established and its effective practices (of the police) will be destroyed, the whole place will be politicized. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih will have the power to change employees as he wishes to, being the Chief of the Police Services,” Shiyam said further.

Internal audit system

The Ministry of Finance has commenced efforts to establish an internal audit system for the government under the Public Finance Act. A ministry circular said that the system will enable convenient identification and verification of state registered bank accounts and public funds as well as financial statistics of government offices and institutions. A six-member committee has been tasked with creating and implementing the guidelines for the internal audit system. It is also intended to encourage a culture of transparency and assist the finance minister's auditing duties.

Furthermore, an internal audit department will be formed within the finance ministry to act as an intermediary between the six-member committee and the ministry.

People still with MDP: Solih

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has stated that ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will attain a bigger success than their achievement in the 2019 parliamentary election, in the 4 April local council elections. In response to a question posed by a journalist regarding MDP's campaigning activities, President Solih said that the people were still aligned with the party, just as they were ahead of the parliamentary election. Therefore, the party will likely be even more successful in the upcoming election, Mr Solih said, launching the MDP’s island polls campaign in capital Male. Sharing similar sentiments, Parliament Speaker, former Presindent and MDP chief, Mohammed Nasheed said, "The people are still aligned with MDP following our great victory in the last parliamentary elections. We will achieve even bigger success in the upcoming elections.”


New Home Affairs Minister

Newly-appointed Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Soe Htut vowed on 13 February to ensure rule of law in the country, which is facing conflicts  with ethnic armed groups and a huge drug problem. Lt Gen Soe Htut, 59, replaced former minister, Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, who has been reassigned to the Defence Services Ministry by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The new Home Minister graduated with Intake 64 of the Defence Services Academy, and became head of the Office of Military Security Affairs in 2016. The office is a key branch of the Tatmadaw (military) involved in intelligence gathering.

Trade with Thailand up

Border trade between Thailand and Myanmar is set to increase this year due to the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge and the implementation of Cross Border Transport Facilitation Agreement (CBTA). Among three trade points along the border between Myanmar and Thailand, Myawady-Mae Sot route is the most important, carrying around 70 percent of trade between the countries. Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce statistics already show that trade through the Myawady-Mae Sot route in the last four months of fiscal year 2019-20 had risen to US$330 million compared with US$260 million in the same period a year ago.


Two years of Oli and NCP

Prime Minister K. P Sharma Oli is all set to address the House of Representatives in Nepal, discussing the achievements of his government in the last two years. This is also the birth anniversary of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Time seems to be ripe to assess the Oli government in its journey of two years.

Melamchi project stalled

Nepal has been looking forward to the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) since three decades to fight water shortage. However, the framework is still not complete, with the government fixing another deadline as the mid-2020. A Chinese firm has been given the contract of completing the construction work with additional tunnels for water supply. Nonetheless, factors like poor road infrastructure or possible landslides due to over excavation.


Erdogan on two-day visit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with his wife started a two days official visit to Pakistan for deepening and strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries. Erdogan, accompanied by Cabinet members and a business delegation, was received by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Nur Khan Airbase. The relations between Pakistan and Turkey were strained after Imran Khan skipped the Kuala Lumpur Summit – under the pressure from Saudi Aribia and the UAE, the two countries that dominate the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) according to Erdogan. On 14 February Erdogan will address a joint session of the parliament. The visit is also being keenly followed by Beijing, as Pakistan will invite Turkey to join the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC), China’s flagship project under the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

Unhappy with US-India ties

Pakistan’s discomfort has grown with the Trump administration’s nod to sell the US’ integrated air-defence weapons to India. Islamabad has said that the decision will shift the strategic balance in the region. According to the foreign office, the growing strategic and defence relations between the US and India could impact the peace of the region as India has shown an aggressive policy towards Pakistan through both its military and political leadership. Islamabad has warned that the international community should not send South Asia into a conflict and arms race.

Sri Lanka

US bars Army chief

Months after former President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed him Army chief, the US has barred the entry to Lt-Gen Shavendra Silva, who is also the Acting Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), from entering the country, citing the UN’s Darusman Report on the alleged killing of 40,000 Tamil civilians in the conclusive ‘Eelam War IV’. The government has taken strong objections to the ban, pointing also to the time-delay and summoned US ambassador Alaina B Teblitz to register its protest.

UNP issue dead-locked

Problems within the Opposition UNP seem to be dead-locked with the rival camps headed by party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and his deputy Sajith Premadasa sticking to their known positions on the ‘leadership issue’ independent of the latter being named prime ministerial candidate for the parliamentary polls due this year, with powers to finalise seat-sharing with allies and nominating party candidate. The Sajith camp has since sought to register a new party with the Election Commission (EC). The Ranil leadership has protested to the same, pointing to the common ‘UNP’ abbreviation of the English translation of the original Sinhala name.



Opinion Pieces

Catherine Putz, “What’s the True Human Cost of US Reconstruction Efforts in Afghanistan?”, The Diplomat, 14 February 2020

Mohammad ZahirAkbari, “Electricity Disorder: A Never-Ending Problem in Afghanistan”, The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 10 February 2020


The Kabul Times, “Peace Requires Genuine Commitments in Afghanistan”, 13 February 2020

The Daily Outlook Afghanistan, “Why Violent Crime is Soaring in Afghan Major Cities”, 12 February 2020


Opinion Pieces

Abu Afsarul Haider, “Key socioeconomic issues that we must address”, The Daily Star, 13 February 2020

Syed Yusuf Saadat, “SDG5: Going for Girl Power”. The Daily Star, 9 February 2020

Afsana Islam, “The roadblocks to financial inclusion in Bangladesh”, The Daily Star, 9 February 2020


The Daily Star, “The Land of (dying) rivers”, 8 February 2020



Kuensel, “Dealing with sophisticated crimes”, 13 February 2020

The Bhutanese, “Low Value, High Volume”, 8 February 2020


Opinion Pieces

Rohini Pande & Charity Troyer Moore, “The budget relegated women’s economic participation to secondary importance”, The Indian Express, 14 February 2020

Sandip Dwivedi, “India’s young cricketers need to ask: Does sledging fit in with who they want to be?”, The Indian Express, 14 February 2020

Shraddha Choudhary, “The marriage story for everyone”, The Hindu, 14 February 2020

Harbans Mukhiya, “Heralding a politics of change”, The Hindu, 14 February 2020


The Hindu, “Managing perceptions: On envoys visit to J&K”, 14 February 2020

 The Hindu, “Winning formula: on AAP's victory”, 14 February 2020

 The Indian Express, “Beyond the optics”, 14 February 2020

The Indian Express, “Balance the needs”, 13 February 2020

 The Hindu, “Extended folly: On invocation of PSA against Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti”, 8 February 2020


Opinion Pieces

The Nordic Diplomatic Missions, “Mobilizing Young, First-Time Voters Is an Investment in Myanmar’s Future”, The Irrawaddy, 12 February 2020

Htet Naing Zaw, “Kachin Leaders Demand Charter Reform to Establish Peace”, The Irrawaddy, 7 February 2020


The Irrawaddy, “Myanmar Military Chief Expected to Appoint Loyalists as Reshuffle Looms”, 13 February 2020


Opinion Pieces

Dinesh Bhattarai, “Intelligence and Nepal’s foreign policy”, Republica, 13 February 2020

Paban Raj Pandey, “NEPSE springs to life”, The Kathmandu Post, 13 February 2020

Purushottam Ojha, “Investing in infrastructure”, Republica, 12 February 2020


The Himalayan Times, “Beat the clock now”, 14 February 2020

The Kathmandu Post, “A bridge to fear”, 12 February 2020


Opinion Pieces

Azhar Azam, “Trump’s tumbling Afghanistan strategy”, The Express Tribune, 13 February 2020

Inam Ul Haque, “Afghanistan — dealing with the deal”, The Express Tribune, 13 February 2020

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

Rajan Philip, “Rajapaksa(s)-Modi bonding and bothering”, The Island, 16 February 2020

Kumar David, “What’s President’s game-plan?”, The Island, 16 February 2020

Lucien Rajakaruanayake, “The heartbeat of crooked politics”, The Island, 15 February 2020

Kamanthi Wickremesinghe, “MCC and the Land Project: A Gordian Knot in the making”, Daily Mirror Online, 14 February 2020

Kelum Bandara, “A divided national party”, Daily Mirror Online, 13 February 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Guess, who is wooing Sri Lanka now?”,, 11 February 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Protecting the rights of all”, Ceylon Today, 11 February 2020

Jehan Perera, “Seeing the light in times of uncertainty”, The Island, 10 February 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Where from here 13-A?”, Colombo Gazette, 10 February 2020


Afghanistan: Shubhangi Pandey

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ambar Kumar Ghosh

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

Pakistan: Ayjaz Wani

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