Peoples Democratic Movement & FATF: PTI Government In A Fix

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government led by Imran Khan is in a tight spot. On one hand a virtual plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is to decide whether Pakistan should continue on its “grey” list based on the review of Islamabad’s performance to meet global commitments and standards on the fight against money laundering and terror financing (ML&TF). At the same time, political temperatures in the country are soaring with opposition parties joining hands under the banner of the newly formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) led by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl-Ur-Rehman. The PDM successfully organised two anti-government protests in Gujranwala and Karachi and is set to organise the third in Quetta on Sunday.

The Imran Khan government introduced a series of bills and laws related to FATF compliance. However, it met with fierce opposition that managed to block the bills in the National Assembly. The three crucial bills related to FATF were Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill was passed in the joint session of Parliament on 16 September amid opposition protests and walk- outs.  The opposition’s moves to block FATF-linked bills drew an immediate and strong reaction from Prime Minister Imran Khan who wrote a series of tweets to attack the opposition parties, saying they were “blackmailing” his government by blocking crucial FATF bills to get away with corruption cases against them.

It was former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s virtual speech that took a blunt aim at the military establishment calling it a state above the state that shook the PTI government and the military establishment. An FIR was registered against Nawaz Sharif and many other opposition leaders for sedation and conspiracy against the state. Although after much criticism the FIR on other leaders were withdrawn except for Nawaz Sharif stating that the former Premier supported the policies of neighbouring India so that Pakistan would continue to remain on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) ‘grey list’.  Pakistan claims that it has done enough on money laundering and terror financing and has reported about it to the FATF! Nothing can be far from the truth.

The corruption case against General Asim Saleem Bajwa, Chairman CPEC was highlighted in Nawaz Sharif’s virtual speech at Gujranwala. Later, Bajwa resigned from the post of Special Assistant to Pak Prime Minister on Information & Broadcasting. The constant attacks on the army by the PDM not to meddle in politics forced the army establishment to issue an official statement that it keeps away from political affairs. Imran Khan has sharpened his attacks on the opposition and has said that now Pakistan will see a “Naya Imran Khan”. He said his priority would be to bring back Mr. Sharif to Pakistan and put him in jail.

The arrest of Captain (retired) Safdar of the PML-N by Sindh rangers that technically acts under the interior ministry unfolded another political crisis involving the army. Although he was released on bail; it has been revealed that the IGP Sindh was kidnapped on directions of the federal government and forced to sign on the arrest warrant of Captain Safdar! Many senior police officers including the IGP Sindh went on mass leave stating that they were humiliated by the incident and the kidnapping of the IGP should be investigated. The Chief Minister of Sindh also made a startling revelation that he had received a threat from a federal minister that his the government would be “dismissed” if a case was not filed against PML-N leader Capt. (Retd) Safdar.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Bajwa has ordered the Corp Commander of Sindh to do a thorough investigation of the case and asked the Sindh police force to join back work.

The intention was obviously to engineer a schism within the PDM opposition alliance. A federal paramilitary force was used illegally, for political ends, to abduct the head of a province’s principal law-enforcement agency.

The internal political crisis led by PDM protests can prove detrimental for the future of the PTI government. 

Script: Zainab Akhter, Analyst on Pakistan