Following the killing of Al- Qaeda chief Ayman-al- Zawahiri in the heart of Kabul despite a United States-Taliban deal laid out before the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, questions are being raised about whether Pakistan played a role in providing the location details of the terrorist to the US.
Last week, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa sought help from the US to secure an early loan disbursal from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Furthermore, sources revealed that Bajwa held a telephonic conversation with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in a highly unusual move. Bajwa’s appeal to the US came as he is making efforts to pull Pakistan out of its economic mess.
As dwindling foreign reserves sparked a scramble in Islamabad Bajwa reached out to the US to avoid a default.
Experts believe that the White House may have used pressure tactics and sought a trade-off, with the country – the US backing Pakistan’s emergency loan in exchange for Pakistan disclosing the whereabouts of the Al Qaeda terrorists mentioned a publication in the Times of Israel.
It further raises questions if the United States felt comfortable forcing Bajwa to hand over Zawahiri, while not holding Pakistan accountable for its involvement. Likewise, it also raises concerns about what the Pakistan military will be willing to do in future if it has agreed to this trade-off.
Michael Rubin, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), writing for the Times of Israel notes it is uncertain from where the drone that fired two missiles into Zawahiri’s residence flew.
If the American drone flew from Pakistan, it would be much more obvious that Bajwa was involved in Zawahiri’s killing, but it would also imply that Biden is giving Pakistan a de facto veto over American over-the-horizon counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan.
Michael further wrote that the Biden administration should exercise caution while permitting Pakistan to make money off its ongoing support for terrorism, and added that it’s time to warn Pakistan to deliver all of Al Qaeda’s assets immediately, follow all FATF counterterrorism recommendations, or risk being labelled a terror sponsor and going bankrupt.
At the FATF, Pakistan is due to be assessed in October 2022 in Paris.
However, when it comes to counter-terrorism, Pakistan made limited progress on the most difficult aspects of its 2015 National Action Plan, specifically in its pledge to dismantle all terrorist organizations without delay or discrimination Pakistan has been on the Paris-based global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog’s grey list for deficiencies in its counter-terror financing and anti-money laundering regimes since June 2018.
This greylisting has adversely impacted its imports, exports, remittances, and limited access to international lending. In June 2021, the country was given three months to fulfil the remaining conditions by October.
However, Pakistan was retained on the FATF’s grey list for failing to effectively implement the global FATF standards and for its lack of progress in the investigation and prosecution of senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups.