Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dramatic admission that “30,000 to 40,000” militants — trained in Afghanistan and Kashmir — are still operating in Pakistan, may become a serious issue for Islamabad with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), government sources in New Delhi said.
They indicated that India was considering making the remarks a part of its submission ahead of the next meeting in October of the international terror financing watchdog.
Speaking at a think-tank in Washington on Tuesday, Mr. Khan said though Pakistan’s government had launched a “National Action Plan” against terrorism after the Peshawar school attack in December 2015, implementation began only after his government came to power last year.
“Until we came into power, the governments did not have the will to [implement the National Action Plan], because if you talk of militant groups, they still have about 30,000-40,000 people who are armed and who have been trained in some sort of a theatre, who fought either in Afghanistan or maybe in Kashmir,” Mr. Khan said at the United States Institute of Peace, in the first clear admission by Pakistan that thousands of terrorists and training camps which have been active in Kashmir, still operate in Pakistan. Later in the day, Mr. Khan also pointed to the existence of at least “40 militant groups” in the period after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
‘Owning up’ ::
In New Delhi, government sources said they were “glad” the Pakistani Prime Minister was “owning up” to the existence of these groups.
“It is, however, equally important for the Pakistani leadership to act on this knowledge by destroying the breeding ground of terrorists in areas under the control of Pakistan by taking credible and irreversible action,” an official told The Hindu.
Mr. Khan’s remarks contradict the Pakistan Army’s position on the existence of terror groups. In April this year, after FATF strictures spurred a crackdown on religious extremist institutions, the Pakistan army spokesperson had said there were “no terrorist organisations” in the country.
“We are the first government who has now started disarming the militant groups; this is the first time it is happening. We have taken over their institutes, their seminaries and we have now got administrators there,” Mr. Khan had added during his comments in Washington, where he accused previous Pakistani governments of withholding “the truth on the ground” from the United States.
FATF fodder ::
Government sources pointed out that the numbers given by Mr. Khan were considerably higher than those submitted by Pakistan at the FATF. Pakistan could face a “blacklisting” in October if it fails to comply with commitments on ending terrorism according to its action plan. In Schedule-4 of Pakistan’s “Anti-Terrorism Act”, which details banned organisations, the government has listed only 8,000 active militants.
“[Mr. Khan’s statement] has opened up the question of effectiveness in Pakistan’s much publicised compliance of the FATF Action Plan, and would allow countries like India to raise the issue at FATF,” a source added.
This is not the first time Mr. Khan has sparked a controversy by speaking plainly about terrorism. In April this year, he was criticised in parliament for declaring that anti-Iran terror groups operated from Pakistani soil, during a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani in Tehran.