Daily Briefs

Photo : Foreign Policy

26 June 2020, Friday, Vol 1, No.59

Pakistan country report annual by the US Department of State on terrorism

Pakistan country report annual by the US Department of State on terrorism, Imran Khan's statement on the "martyrdom" of Osama bin Laden, PK 8303 crash report, and the COVID situation.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus

"Pakistan still a safe haven for regional terrorist organisations": The US State Department Annual Report 2019
However, modest steps were taken in 2019 to counter terror financing and to restrain regional terrorist groups

The latest Annual Country Report on Terrorism for 2019 released by the US State Department's, states that Pakistan continues to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally-focused terrorist groups. ("Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Pakistan," US Department of State) Critical of the situation in the country, the report further states groups targeting Afghanistan and India, in particular, have been allowed to operate from its territory. Further, in 2019, the country was re-designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. However, although the country witnessed significant terrorist threats in 2019, the number of attacks and casualties was lower than in 2018, continuing an overall year-on-year decline.  

On legislative measures implemented to counter-terrorism
The report highlights the various measure taken by the state to counter terror financing and regional militant groups. The government continued to implement the Antiterrorism Act of 1997, the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) Act, the 2014 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, and 2014 amendments to the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) which allow the law enforcers and courts an upper hand in terrorism cases. Further, through the International Border Management Security Systems biometric information has been collected at land crossings. To address smuggling by air, "the Customs Service attempted to enforce anti-money laundering laws and foreign exchange regulations at all major airports, in coordination with other agencies. Customs managed the entry of dual-use chemicals for legitimate purposes through end-use verification, while also attempting to prevent their diversion for use in IEDs." Further, the military, paramilitary, and civilian security forces conducted counter-terrorism operations throughout Pakistan against anti-state militants, further "Pakistani law allows for preventive detention, permits the death penalty for terrorism offenses, and authorizes special Anti-Terrorism Courts to try terrorism cases."

"Some progress" towards meetings the FATF requirement
According to the report, "In 2019, Pakistan made some progress toward meeting the action plan requirements for the FATF, allowing it to avoid being blacklisted," however not all the actions plans were completed. Further, the government initiated five de-radicalization camps which offered corrective religious education, vocational training, counselling, and therapy. However, reports claim that there remain some madrassas who continued to teach "extremist" doctrine. The National Action Plan directed increased governmental supervision of madrassas, and evidence shows that there have been continuous government efforts to increase regulation.

Having been under the grey list of the FATF since 2018, the report stated: "the organisation expressed serious concern at its October 2019 plenary about Pakistan's continued deficiencies but noted it had made some progress and extended the deadline for full Action Plan implementation to February 2020."

"Yet to take decisive actions against Indian and Afghanistan focused militants"
According to the report, "Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian and Afghanistan focused militants who would undermine their operational capability." The government of Pakistan has also been unable to fulfil aspects of its 2015 National Action Plan to counter-terrorism, especially concerning its pledge to dismantle all terrorist organizations without delay and discrimination. Further, terrorist leaders such as JeM founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir believed to under the protection of the state, despite government denials have still not been prosecuted. Further, separatist militant groups conducted terrorist attacks against varied targets in Balochistan and Sindh provinces have not been managed.

Pakistan's Response to the report
The US has undermined the counter-terrorism efforts of Pakistan says the Foreign Office
The Foreign Office has objected to the report released by the US State Department. In the report, it is given that Pakistan has allowed its territory to be the home for many terrorist organisations that pose a threat to other countries such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Masood Azhar who is an UN-designated terrorist. The FO has countered that it has not permitted such groups to function and it does not have any intention to harm any country. it is also believed that Pakistan faces external threat from terrorist groups within, also the spokesperson regretted that there was no mention about its counter-terrorism effort towards Al Qaeda in the report by the US. In the case of Intra-Afghan dialogue, the FO indicated that they hope for the release of prisoners will happen as per the US-Taliban Peace agreement. (Baqir Sajjad Syed, "FO rejects US report on terrorism," Dawn, 26 June 2020)


Imran Khan addressing the Parliament, calls Osama bin Laden a martyr. Source: Dawn


In Brief

PM Khan talks about the "martyrdom" of Osama bin Laden
On 25 June, Prime Minister Imran Khan, speaking in the National Assembly, called the PTI government's policies the best in the history of Pakistan. He cited the winning of US trust and restoring of the country's dented image as vindications. The PM recalled global criticism and humiliation faced by Pakistan after the "killing, martyrdom" of Osama in the US-led war on terror, despite supporting the US and losing 70,000 Pakistani soldiers. Mr Khan said that under PTI, there was better clarity regarding friends and foes, and policy structures and their implementation. He drew examples of India-Pakistan relations, the Kashmir dispute and the Afghan peace process. PM Imran Khan also called his Indian counterpart PM Modi a fanatic who massacred Muslims in Gujarat and persecuted minorities under the Hindutva ideology inspired by RSS. ("Americans' killed, martyred' Osama: No confusion, contradictions in my policies, says PM," The News International, 26 June 2020)

Opposition condemns PM calling Osama bin-Laden a 'martyr'
PML-N Parliamentary leader Khwaja Asif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari responded to PM Khan's National Assembly speech, on 25 June, by challenging him to a debate on PTI's policies. The Opposition strongly criticised the PM calling Osama a "martyr" and said the speech was meant for someone else. The statement will not go unnoticed by international media. ("Opp slams PM for calling Osama' martyr'," The News International, 26 June 2020)

IATA calls Pak pilot licence irregularities a 'serious lapse'
On 25 June, global airlines body IATA said irregularities in Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) pilot licences show a "serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator". According to PIA, Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority has identified over 150 out of PIA's 434 pilots as possessing "dubious licences". The inquiry that followed the PIA crash which killed 97 people in May has found out the lack of procedure compliance by pilots. Presently PIA has 31 aircrafts and over 14,500 employees. The "serious lapse" has received widespread global media coverage: CNN said "Almost 1 in 3 pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses", while Al Jazeera, German media outlet Deutsche Welle, Telegraph, Washington Post and UK's Guardian ran headlines of Pakistan "grounding" the cheating pilots. ("Pak pilot licence irregularities are 'serious lapse': IATA," The News International, 26 June 2020)

Gulzar Ahmed questions the functioning of the government at the time of crisis
The Chief Justice of Pakistan has claimed that in the political discourse the rights of the citizens have been ignored by the government. The surge in prices of basic commodities such as sugar, oil along with medical supplies including Oximeter and Dettol have worsened the living conditions of the people in Pakistan and complained that the Prime Minister making statements to meet these will not meet the problems. Apart from this the Justice also questioned the use of budget by the Sindh government for importing luxury vehicles was not justifiable when the government did not have funds to pay its sanitary workers and also accused that no development schemes have been made for citizens in Karachi. ("Social contract between State, subjects not being complied with: CJP," Dawn, 26 June 2020)

Dawn's editorial on the Air crash report raises further questions
In the recent crash landing of PK-8303, the preliminary report states that the engine was damaged in the attempt of belly landing and the pilot's decision to go around did not work resulting in the crash. The editorial raises three key questions from the incident for further investigation. Firstly, when the ATC team asked the flight crew twice to discontinue the landing approach, why wasn't it followed by the pilots. Secondly, the contact of the engines to the runway was noticed by the ATC, but why did they fail to convey that to the aircraft team. Thirdly, why was the landing gear applied at 2,220m initially to withdraw back at 530m by the pilots. It is expected that the final report will bring out answers for the mentioned questions. ("Air crash report," Dawn, 26 June 2020)

Dawn wants to be cautiously optimistic about COVID figures in Pakistan
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has reported that the count of cases per day falls between 4,000 to 5,000 which differs from the mid-June projections that were 5,000 to 7,000. As the government is at the urge to announce the reduction in rates, the editorial states that it is very unrealistic as there has been a reduction in the testing from the range of 18 to 22 per cent to 16 to 20 per cent. Thereby it does not reflect the actual impact nor the actual remedy but ends by asking for an increase in the testing of the people to confirm the reduction which seems very tactical. ("Premature optimism," Dawn, 26 June 2020)

The ECC approves three hydropower projects under CPEC
The Economic Coordination Committee on Thursday has approved the Kohala, Azad Pattan and Mahl Hydropower projects that will be implemented by Chinese companies. The project is estimated for a worth of 5 billion dollars and is expected to produce 2,646MW energy in total. It will also be covered under 2002 power policy incentives with revised security package. (Khaleeq Kiani, "Three Chinese hydel projects get ECC approval after a one year wait," Dawn, 26 June 2020)

An Express Tribune Opinion says India has a "confused perception of its global position"
An opinion article in The Express Tribune on 26 June by Durdana Najam, said India has assumptions of economically and militarily overpowering its neighbours. The article uses Doklum, Balakot and Ladakh to sketch the persisting storyline of "aggression, standoff, and submission". Najam says that India's global image is dwindling with every skirmish. The author blames the ruling BJP's right-wing extremist narrative and India's oversized military expenditure for regional unrest. Najam further lists three lessons for India to learn from the ongoing Ladakh issue: first, to reset relations with neighbours; second, "India's negative political energy directed either towards China or Pakistan has been a costly venture"; and last, "India is clinging to a false sense of stability and security". ("India's false sense of security and stability," The Express Tribune, 25 June 2020)

India-Pak diplomatic spat
An editorial in the Express Tribune says the tit-for-tat diplomatic ejections were mostly for saving PM Modi's face and for India's domestic audience who were stressed after the hit-and-run incident by Indian diplomats in Islamabad and the escalating Ladakh crisis. The article blames India of misconstruing facts and wrongly accusing Pakistan of detaining the "reckless drivers" and says that although the diplomatic expulsions will not have severe effects, the "scapegoating sets a terrible precedent". ("Diplomatic dispute," The Express Tribune, 25 June 2020)


"Pakistan took modest steps in 2019 to counter terror financing and to restrain some India-focused militant groups following the February attack on a security convoy in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based JeM.  Thus far, however, Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability.  The Pakistani government also played a constructive role in U.S.-Taliban talks in 2019."

- US Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 on Pakistan (Click here for the report)


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez and A Padmashree.

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