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February 16, 2018

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US, UK joint efforts to put Pakistan on terror watchlist

LONDON: Britain has joined the United States in calling on Pakistan to “tackle the threat from terrorist groups” or face being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an anti-money laundering monitoring group.

A British government source has confirmed that the original motion was prepared jointly by Britain and United States so that the anti-money laundering body could place Pakistan on the list. “Britain, USA and allies in Europe share these concerns and believe that action is needed,” said the source adding that France and Germany are on the same page and that tougher actions could follow.

Pakistan stresses that it’s the biggest victim of terrorism and has been fighting terrorism without discrimination. It’s understood that the measures could hurt Pakistan’s economy. On the record, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) refused to make a comment but Her Majesty’s Treasury, UK government’s economic and finance ministry, confirmed that it was working with the United States and other partners to get Pakistan placed on the FATF list but added that the UK government wanted to help Pakistan deal with the threat of terrorism.

“It is important that Pakistan follows through on its commitments to tackle the threat from terrorist groups. The UK wants to see progress against all the recommendations in FATF reports. We – and others in the international community – are ready to support Pakistan in achieving this,” said a spokesman.

The FATF meeting is going to be held in Paris from 18th Feb to 23rd Feb where it will review the recent steps taken by Pakistani authorities. The 37 members of FATF meeting in Paris will decide on the resolution.

On the recommendation of international community, Pakistan recently has taken numerous step including banning of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

Sources close to the Ministry of Defence (UK) said that if a strong resolution is adopted in the FATF meeting, Pakistan may face another strong action in another meeting of Asia Pacific Group (APG) going to be held in July this year in Kathmandu. It’s understood that strict action will be put off as Pakistan has taken strong steps against the proscribed organsiations and Pakistan has been lobbying with the member countries informing them of the steps taken.

The FATF members China, Russian and Turkey are understood to be satisfied with the steps taken by Pakistan to combat terrorism in the country.

Officials also fear it would be harder and more expensive for Pakistan to borrow money from international debt markets if it was put on the FATF monitoring list. Pakistan believes that the United States has been taking a lot of steps and making statement on behalf of India in relation to Hafiz Saeed and others. Pakistan and the United Kingdom have enjoyed good relations and continued to have close ties. Both countries work closely on security cooperation but the UK government is increasingly supporting American government on the issue of extremist groups.

Meanwhile, Pakistan blamed some of 37 countries of the FATF for political maneuvering and said their real aim was to hamper its economic progress and put it on the Grey List when they meet in Paris on February 20.

Also, the government officially admitted for the first time that the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany had nominated Pakistan to be placed on the Grey List of FATF, while also expressing serious concerns over the introduction of this new procedure, which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of FATF.

The government says all these steps are being taken to raise an alarm over the overall integrity of Pakistan’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.

There has been criticism in Pakistan itself from some quarters that it is only for avoiding the Grey List that the government on Monday endorsed the United Nations' list of banned terrorist organisations by extending the ban on those groups that exist in Pakistan itself.

Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation is yet to be completed, and the blame game against Islamabad has started.

“India is also very active in lobbying against Pakistan, and around February 20 in Paris, we will know how many more of these 37 FATF countries have also decided to join the above four countries, and others who have decided to support Pakistan”, a senior official told The News.

The Foreign Office spokesman expressed Pakistan’s annoyance while telling the weekly media briefing that, “While the Asia Pacific Group (APG) was analysing our report, on January 20, 2018, the US and UK jointly submitted a letter to the FATF, nominating Pakistan for placement on the Grey List. France and Germany subsequently joined this nomination.

He added that since 2015 time and again the goal-posts had been shifted for reporting by Pakistan. Pakistan is not a member of FATF.

Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation is conducted by the Asia Pacific Group (APG). FATF can take punitive measures against any country for non-compliance by issuing a public statement (black/grey list).

“This has made it into a never-ending monitoring process. The objective of raising these new issues seems to be to suddenly raise an alarm over the overall integrity of Pakistan’s AML/CFT framework. The initiation of this action without waiting for completion of Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation is designed to manipulate the FATF process”, added the spokesman.

Pakistan has been continuously reporting to the APG on these “residual concerns” and its latest report was submitted to APG on 6 January 2018. “These reports highlighted comprehensive enforcement actions undertaken by the Government of Pakistan to address these concerns”, he added.

Based on Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation in 2009, the FATF identified “strategic deficiencies” in Pakistan’s AML/CFT regime. In February 2012, Pakistan was listed in FATF’s Public Statement i.e. “grey list”.

To overcome these deficiencies, Pakistan agreed to implement FATF Action Plan. As a consequence, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced new rules and guidelines on CFT/AML. Stand-alone legislation on Money Laundering was also enacted by Parliament.

Moreover, an operationally independent and administrative Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was established under the AML law with the sole mandate of receiving, analysing and disseminating Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs).

In June 2015, Pakistan after strenuous efforts implemented and completed the Action Plan after which it was de-listed from FATF’s Public Statement.

“After the exit, the FATF referred Pakistan to the APG due to residuary concerns regarding implementation of UNSCR 1267 sanctions on some entities i.e. (Lashkar-e-Taiba, JuD, and FIF)”, said the spokesman.

The FATF is an international body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. The primary aim of FATF was to set standards to combat money laundering. In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include countering terrorist financing.

Every country goes through a peer based evaluation process called “Mutual Evaluation” for monitoring of compliance with FATF standards.

Troubles for Pakistan are also coming from the Trump administration where the US Intelligence Committee in its annual exercise is looking at countries which present a global threat.

The committee presents this report to its Congress, and has noted that Pakistan-backed militant groups will continue to take advantage of their alleged safe haven in Pakistan to “plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against the US interests”.

Pointing to Pakistan, the report warned that the country will continue to threaten the US interests by “deploying new nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to militants, restricting counterterrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to China.

“The singular negative focus on Pakistan’s nuclear programme is extremely unfortunate. We have consistently maintained that Pakistan’s nuclear posture is purely defensive in order to deter the aggressive designs of its hostile neighbor in the East”, the FO spokesman responded to a questioner.

He pointed to the complete silence of the report on India’s ambitious nuclear programme and delivery system that is really surprising and smacks of partisanship.

“Any credible threat assessment should have cautioned the world about India’s fast growing nuclear stockpiles and development of long-range delivery systems that have ignited a new arms race in our region”, he added.

Responding to different accusations coming from New Delhi, the spokesman said if India was bent upon aggression, Pakistan was fully capable of defending itself.

“The Pakistani nation should not be taken for granted by anyone. If India wants peace then it should refrain from aggressive rhetoric with the sole objective of securing electoral wins”, he said.

A particular segment in the Indian media, he added, runs with their innuendos to malign Pakistan and whip up public frenzy. “We are confident that the world community would take due cognizance of India's smear campaign against Pakistan and the deliberate creation of war hysteria”, he remarked.

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