ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Let's look now at a critical relationship. The partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan has been in the dumps lately. President Trump recently accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists. The U.S. withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance. And now, to increase the pressure even more, the U.S. is trying to make it harder for Pakistan to access international financial markets.
NPR's Diaa Hadid joins us from Islamabad. Hi, Diaa.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Explain what the U.S. is trying to do here.
HADID: Right. So there's a body called the Financial Action Task Force, and it sets standards to combat money laundering and to counter terrorist financing. And they're meeting this week in Paris. And one thing they're going to do is review how Pakistan has halted its terrorist financing or not. And that's come under particular focus because the U.S. and other Western countries have requested that Pakistan go on what's called a gray list. And that would make it harder for Pakistan to obtain international loans and for investors to come here. That would be a punishment for Pakistan because the economic situation right now is quite precarious.
SHAPIRO: What are they trying to pressure Pakistan to actually do here?
HADID: So the United States accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorist groups, including elements of the Taliban, and they want them to stop. And that includes halting their ability to obtain finance.
SHAPIRO: Is Pakistan worried about potentially being placed on this list?
HADID: Definitely. And Pakistan says that it is fighting terrorism. It denies that it sponsors any terrorist groups. And they say that the goal posts keep moving on what they're meant to be doing. With all that said, actually, last week they cracked down on two Islamic groups that are linked to a radical cleric who's wanted by the United States. And they've seized assets belonging to those groups, including a hospital, some dispensaries, some ambulances, some schools and a university.
SHAPIRO: Does that show that the U.S. pressure is working then?
HADID: Yes and no. So I spoke to diplomats this week, and they say the crackdown is a good start. But what they say is that in the past, Pakistan has cracked down on these groups, but then as soon as the pressure's off it quietly reverts back to funding them again or a new front pops up and they just let that one operate. So what they want to see here is permanence. And that's their key word. The thing is that there is some optimism, actually, that this might work.
SHAPIRO: You say that these groups linked to terrorism use charities as a front, hospitals and things like that. What do those charities actually look like? How widespread are they in Pakistani society?
HADID: Right. So we went to a small medical clinic. And it was on the outskirts of town. It's in a deeply poor, impoverished area. And there were patients crowding in, waiting for help. But the government-appointed doctor hadn't arrived. The clinic had already been taken over by the government. And so there was a clinical assistant who's hired by one of these Islamic charities who was there helping them all out. And the patients were worried. They say that that kind of reflected what happens in government clinics where they don't really get help, or the help they get is shoddy.
We spoke to one woman who'd come with her baby who was sick. You can hear her speaking in Urdu, and then our colleague, Abdul Sattar, translates for her.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Through interpreter) They do not examine properly. You go in the morning and until 2 o'clock you keep on waiting. And even then, doctor will just come and he will not examine properly. But here you come, the child is examined properly and medicine is given properly.
HADID: You can see from what she was saying why there's such an appeal for these groups and why it's hard for Pakistan to actually crack down on them.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad, Pakistan, thanks so much.
HADID: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.