New Delhi: In view of the expected on-ground visit by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) team to Pakistan in September—to verify Pakistan’s claim of tackling money laundering, terror financing and action against terror groups—operatives and leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are maintaining unprecedented radio silence, something that was not seen even during the volatile times of the Mumbai attack and the Pulwama bombing that attracted considerable international attention.

Official and unofficial sources, who track the activities among these terror groups, believe that strict orders have been issued to the leaders of both these groups to remain silent till the FATF team comes to Pakistan, reviews the steps taken and presents it to the body which will deliberate on them in the October plenary session.

While the chief of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, has been sentenced to prison on 8 April for his role in terror financing, Masood Azhar, the chief of JeM, as per the official response of the Pakistan government, has gone “missing”. “There is absolute radio silence as far as social media activity is concerned. Both LeT and Jaish have not talked about their activities or indulged in anti-India propaganda since the last 5-6 months. Their physical presence in Pakistan, in the public domain, too, has been reduced to a large extent. They are existing, but not announcing their presence, as they used to earlier,” an official source told The Sunday Guardian.

Pakistan, helped by its allies China and Turkey, as was reported by The Sunday Guardian earlier (Under PRC influence, FATF may drop Pak from grey list, 11 June), got a thumbs-up during the June FATF plenary that was held in Germany and is now just one step away from being pulled out from the list of countries under “increased monitoring”, commonly known as its “grey” list.

In response to The Sunday Guardian’s queries, the FATF said that details of onsite visits were “confidential”. “In order to be removed from FATF monitoring, a jurisdiction must address all or nearly all the components of its action plan. Once the FATF has determined that a jurisdiction has done so, it will organise an on-site visit to confirm that the implementation of the necessary legal, regulatory, and/or operational reforms is underway and there is the necessary political commitment and institutional capacity to sustain implementation. If the on-site visit has a positive outcome, the FATF will decide on removing the jurisdiction from public identification at the next FATF plenary,” an FATF spokesperson said.

This vital step, once it’s completed, will ensure that Pakistan gets the much-needed economic assistance that it needs from international bodies on a favourable condition to keep it afloat and not face the situation that Sri Lanka is facing now.

Official sources said that by sentencing Saeed, Pakistan has made a very good “impression” on the FATF. This “good conduct” by LeT and Jaish is an indication of the considerable hold the Pakistan military establishment exercises over them, as GHQ, Rawalpindi, has invested massive resources, including forming a separate team, to ensure that Pakistan gets off from the FATF grey list and hence it could not allow its vestigial arms (LeT and Jaish) to sabotage its efforts.

Why Jaish chief, Masood Azhar, was not given a similar treatment as Hafiz Saeed, which could have been done easily considering he has been under the protection and patronage of the Pakistan Army for decades, is something that Pakistan or its otherwise hyper-active media which has taken a very hard stand on terror groups traditionally, has not commented on.

According to one school of thought, Azhar, who is seen as more “rabid” and rigid than Saeed, likely refused to go to prison even for the sake of appearances as it would have been seen by his cadre as “surrendering” to the Pakistan Army, but agreed to go underground till the FATF formalities are completed.

Azhar’s weekly sermons, that are rabidly anti-India and extort fighters to go to Kashmir and wage “jihad”, are also not being uploaded on social media. These sermons were a significant source of “encouraging” the unemployed, rural Pakistani youth from impoverished families to join Jaish and go to Kashmir. This radio silence from both Lashkar and Jaish, security agencies believe, is likely to be maintained until the yearend and resume once the snow starts melting at the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir along the border of India-Pakistan from March.

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