Pakistan Diplomat: Attempt to Add Islamabad to Terrorist Financing Watch List Delayed
By Madeeha Anwar, Hashim Habibzada February 21, 2018
Pakistan's chief diplomat said Tuesday that a U.S.-led motion to put Pakistan on a global terrorist financing watch list has been deferred for three months.
The final decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is expected to be announced Thursday.
Pakistan's foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, who is on an official visit to Russia, made his announcement in a tweet Tuesday.
Asif also mentioned that the financial watchdog has instructed the Asia Pacific Group (APG), an entity of FATF, to consider "another report in June" on the matter.
The South Asian country has been trying hard to avoid being added to the FATF list of countries that have failed to adhere to FATF guidelines and regulations and take adequate measures to crack down on terror financing and money laundering.
The U.S. State Department's spokesperson Heather Nauert, however, told reporters Tuesday that the final decision on the motion is expected later this week.
"So, I don't have just independent confirmation that a decision was made early. We're anticipating that the final decision would be made on Thursday of this week," Nauert said
"Financial Action Task Force, and it's where a lot of countries have come together, and they look at various nations who we believe and those other countries believe are not doing enough to crack down on terror financing, counterterrorism and the like," Nauert said. "Pakistan is one of those countries that they're taking a close look at," she said.
The member countries of FATF have held meetings in Paris this week to discuss Pakistan's designation, among other pressing global issues.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany have reportedly put forward a motion to put Pakistan on the FATF list, stating the country has failed to comply with anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering regulations.
This is not the first time Pakistan faces scrutiny by FATF. The country was on the global watch list from 2012 to 2015.
The country fears going back on the list could hamper foreign direct investment and hurt Pakistan's access to international financial markets.
In an attempt to demonstrate compliance with the international antiterrorist financing regulations, Pakistan amended its antiterrorism law last week.
The change authorizes the government to blacklist charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, a U.S.-designated global terrorist.
Saeed has been wanted by the United States since 2012 for allegedly planning the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
Also under scrutiny are Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its subsidiary, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), which allegedly serve as the front organizations for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a U.S. and European Union-designated terrorist organization, accused of carrying out terror attacks in India and Afghanistan.
"How many times have we talked about the person who Pakistan let out of house arrest, who was responsible for the Mumbai attacks back in 2008 that killed so many people, including Americans, too?" Nauert said, referring to Saeed during her press briefing on Tuesday.
If Pakistan does get a deferment Thursday, the country will still face scrutiny again in three months if it does not meet the demands of the FATF.
Some experts remain concerned that Pakistan could still be added to the list in June and suffer economic damage.
"Pakistan has in the recent past tried to invite foreign investors for infrastructure projects and take part in CPEC [China Pakistan Economic Corridor]. If sanctions are imposed, international financers and different investors will face difficulty to come to Pakistan," Ata Muhammad, a Paris-based analyst told VOA.
Some experts also criticized the country for failing to make a convincing case for its efforts against terrorism.
"The country has worked according to Financial Task force guidelines, and its financial monitoring unit has worked aggressively to choke terror financing by filing thousands of cases," Zahid Gishkori, a Pakistan-based journalist said.
"Banned outfits were generating around 2 billion rupees, the state curbed it. Pakistan has also frozen around 5,200 accounts related to terror financing. There was a list of actions that were done," Gishkori added.
Echoing Gishkori's assessment on Pakistan's failure to make its case, U.S.-based security analyst Kamran Bokhari says Pakistan needs to take more effective action against terror groups of all kinds across the country.
"Pakistan had been accused of playing double-games and not dealing with all the terror networks indiscriminately and has not shown its commitment against those terrorists who launch attacks in India and Afghanistan," Bokhari said.
Washington suspended $2 billion worth of aid to Pakistan last year and is pressuring Islamabad to cut its alleged ties to Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan denies the charges and maintains that it has carried out military operations against terror groups throughout the country indiscriminately and that there are no terror safe havens in the country.
VOA Urdu contributed to this report.
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