Terror attacks drop, but Pakistan ‘not out of the woods’

GUJRANWALA, PAKISTAN (AP) — Terror attacks in Pakistan plummeted by more than 85 per cent over the last decade. It’s a welcome statistic for the country, but one that risks being overshadowed by international concern over its efforts to curb terror funding and lingering militant activity that could test any future peace agreement in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The tally, put together by Pakistani think tanks, found terror attacks dropped from nearly 2,000 in 2009 to fewer than 250 in 2019, a steady decline that underscores the long-haul nature of fighting terror.

But a Paris-based international watchdog said in last October that Pakistan was not doing enough to stop terror financing. The group meets next month to decide whether the country should be downgraded from a “grey” status to “black”, alongside Iran and North Korea, a step that could pose a challenge to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan, so its progress at reining in terror is critical, particularly as Washington seeks to secure a deal with the Afghan Taleban to bring an end to the 18-year war, America’s longest military engagement.

“The sharp decrease in terrorist violence, which we began to see in 2014, is nothing short of remarkable,” said Asia Programme Deputy Director at the Washington-based Wilson Centre Michael Kugelman. But, he cautioned, “Pakistan is certainly not out of the woods yet.”

Last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the watchdog that monitors terror financing, said Pakistan had fully implemented only one item from a list of 40 measures to curb terror financing and money laundering. The other 39 measures were either partially implemented or in some cases overlooked entirely.

If Pakistan is blacklisted, every financial transaction would be closely scrutinised, and doing business with the country would become costly and cumbersome. Pakistani officials say they are working to meet the task force’s demands and expect to avoid a black listing at the crucial meeting in Paris in February.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Economic Affairs Minister held a preliminary meeting with an FATF regional affiliate to make a case for removal from the list.

File photo shows a Pakistani man carrying a child rushes away from the site of a blast shortly after a car bomb exploded in Peshawar, Pakistan. PHOTO: AP