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Act now or face action in 90 days: FATF

ISLAMABAD: Despite multiple reports in international media to the contrary and pressure from the US, Pakistan has not been included in a list of countries with ‘strategic deficiencies’ in countering money laundering and combating financing for terrorism. The decision was made in a three-day plenary meeting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global watchdog on money laundering and terrorism financing.
The meeting concluded on Friday, without any explicit measures announced against Pakistan with respect to terrorism financing. The countries on the FATF’s watch-list, announced after the meeting, included Ethiopia, Iraq, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu and Yemen.
Pakistan’s name was also absent from a joint statement issued by the regulator after the meeting. Similarly, Pakistan was not mentioned in a statement mentioning the outcomes of the FATF’s plenary meeting.
Soon after the watchdog’s statements were issued, Geo News quoted Alexandra Wijmenga-Daniel, manager communications for the FATF, as confirming that Pakistan was not added to the so-called grey list and that the FATF was not responsible for any reports making claims to the contrary. Pakistan will as such get three-month reprieve, but it will have to take concrete measures during this concessionary period for stopping money laundering for terrorists.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had said on Tuesday that Pakistan had been given a three-month reprieve by the global watchdog.
Asif had tweeted that Pakistan’s “efforts have paid (off)” and suggested that there had been “no consensus for nominating Pakistan”. However, he had also suggested that the meeting had proposed a “three months pause” and asked for the Asia Pacific Group, which is part of the FATF, to consider “another report in June”. That statement was contradicted earlier Friday in Indian and international media, which circulated reports that a decision had been made to include Pakistan in the FATF’s grey list late Thursday night after Saudi Arabia and China allegedly withdrew their support.
Similar claims were also reported by Reuters. Reuters had cited an unnamed, “non-Indian diplomatic source” from one of the FATF countries as saying that the group had decided that Pakistan would be put back on the watch-list.
The reports had triggered a sharp drop in the Pakistan Stock Exchange’s benchmark KSE-100 index, which plummeted as much as 615 points in intra-day trading immediately after activities resumed following a mid-day break. The FATF session was being held to review proposals that included, among other things, putting Pakistan back on a list of countries which have failed to prevent terrorist financing.
The United States and Britain had put forward a motion to place Pakistan on the FATF terrorist-financing watch list. If adopted, the resolution would have placed Pakistan on the FATF grey list of “jurisdictions with deficient anti-money laundering regimes”.
Pakistan was previously on the FATF watch-list from 2012 to 2015. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal tweeted on Friday cautioning against speculation on the matter until there was official confirmation of the FATF decision.
The Foreign Office (FO) spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal, in a weekly press briefing, said Pakistan had serious concerns over the motion moved by the US and United Kingdom at the FATF. 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 spokesman 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 said was in line with international standards.
The spokesman underlined that the Trump administration pushing Pakistan on to the FATF grey list was a clear violation of the FATF. “So far, Pakistan and the United States have not failed to find common ground. Despite our long-time relationship, several unilateral actions by the US in recent months have impacted the relationship, and it is for the US to rebuild the trust. We have categorically conveyed to the US that this relationship can move forward only in an environment of mutual trust and respect,” the spokesman at the Foreign Office told the weekly media briefing.
In fact, the spokesman said he was surprised that the US intelligence had remarked that Pakistan was “drifting” away, instead the reality was that “it is the US that is drifting away from Pakistan, despite our long-time relationship, and it is for the US to rebuild the trust.”
Brushing aside Indian Army chief’s recent allegations, threatening Pakistan, the spokesman said these were a figment of the Indian Army chief’s imagination.
“Unfortunately, baseless allegations and fabricated accusations without any evidence appear to have become a regrettable trend in India which is being used to creating hysteria against Pakistan. Not only is this irresponsible discrediting the speaker, but it also vitiates an already tense environment without accruing any benefit. I will just leave it at this as it does not warrant any more comments,” said the spokesman.
Nonetheless, on Thursday, ahead of the FATF’s outcomes, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah had expressed the Trump administration’s displeasure over the efforts so far made by Pakistan. 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,” Shah had said while answering a question at the press briefing about the US’s South Asia policy. The FATF, an inter-governmental 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 had said being put on the FATF watch-list could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy, making it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the country.

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