The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog on money laundering and terror financing, is going to announce its decisions — including on the motion to place Pakistan on the terror-financing watch list — after a week-long session concludes today.
The FATF session in Paris, which concludes on Friday, is being held to review proposals that include putting Pakistan back on a list of countries which have failed to prevent terrorist financing. The United States (US) and Britain had put forward a motion to place Pakistan on the FATF terrorist-financing watch list. If adopted, the resolution would place Pakistan on the FATF grey-list of “jurisdictions with deficient anti-money laundering regimes”. Pakistan was previously on the FATF watchlist from 2012 to 2015.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal tweeted today, cautioning against speculation on the matter until there is official confirmation of the FATF decision.
Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal, in a weekly press briefing in Islamabad today, said Pakistan had serious concerns over the motion moved by the US and United Kingdom at the FATF, Radio Pakistan reported.
Dr Faisal claimed that most US concerns over deficiencies in steps taken to curb money laundering and terror financing had already been addressed in 2015, when Pakistan exited the grey-list. The FO spokesperson added that Pakistan’s name being taken off the grey-list was acknowledgement of the country’s “robust mechanism” against money-laundering and terror financing, which he claimed was in line with international standards.
Prior to the FATF’s official decision, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday had taken to Twitter to announce that Pakistan has been given a three-month reprieve.
Asif had tweeted that Pakistan’s “efforts have paid (off)” during a Tuesday meeting on the US-led motion, suggesting there was “no consensus for nominating Pakistan”.
He had also suggested the meeting proposed a “three months pause” and asked for the Asia Pacific Group, which is part of FATF, to consider “another report in June”.
“Grateful to friends who helped,” Asif had added.
On the same day as Asif’s tweet, The Wall Street Journal had named China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as the ‘friends’ who had come forward to rescue Pakistan, saying that the three countries had blocked the US’s motion to put Pakistan on the list.
Terming it a rare disagreement between Riyadh and the Trump administration, the WSJ citing officials involved in the process reported that Saudi Arabia joined Turkey and China in a move to block the US-led attempt.
According to the report, the Trump administration has also been trying to reverse the reprieve to Islamabad and pressuring the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and other countries to withdraw their support to Pakistan.
Pakistan had lobbied FATF member countries to keep it off the watch list, the report read.
In the lead-up to the FATF plenary session this week, the government took control of three dispensaries run by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) in a rural area near the capital.
Additionally, President Mamnoon Hussain on Feb 9 quietly promulgated an ordinance amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 with regards to proscription of terrorist individuals and organisations to include entities listed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) — in a move that would end a longstanding ambiguity over the status of the JuD and FIF by firmly placing them on the list of proscribed groups.
On Thursday, ahead of the FATF’s outcomes, a White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, expressed Trump administration’s displeasure over the efforts so far made by Pakistan against terrorism. He told reporters that US President Donald Trump is not “satisfied with progress when it comes to Pakistan”.
“For the first time, we’re holding Pakistan accountable for its actions. We’ve seen modest progress in terms of Pakistan’s actual acknowledgement of these concerns, but President [Trump] is not satisfied with progress when it comes to Pakistan,” said Shah while answering a question at the press briefing about the US South Asia policy.
The FATF, an intergovernmental body based in Paris that sets global standards for fighting illicit finance, had previously warned Islamabad it could be put back on the list without further efforts to crack down on the flow of funds to militants.
Pakistani officials and Western diplomats say being put on the FATF watchlist could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy, making it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the country.