Pak may stay in grey list as action over terror funding tops FATF meet agenda
With the US seen as overly dependent on Pakistan for swinging a deal with the Afghan Taliban, diplomats of other Western nations expect an easing of pressure from Washington on Islamabad. Pakistan is also not expected to be put on FATF’s “black list”, which would entail harsher sanctions, as such a move would be blocked by China, Malaysia and Turkey.Updated: Feb 17, 2020 08:28 IST
Pakistan’s progress in tackling terror financing, which poses a risk to the global financial system, will be one of the important issues taken up at the working group and plenary meetings of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that began in Paris on Sunday, the multilateral watchdog has said.
Western diplomats widely expect Pakistan to be retained in the “grey list” of the FATF as it has fully or partially complied with only 14 of the 27 points on an action plan it has to implement to curb terror financing and money laundering. Pakistan was placed in the grey list in 2018.
Though Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and an aide were given five-and-a-half year prison terms in two terror financing cases by a Pakistani court four days before the FATF meetings, experts have noted that Islamabad has failed to prosecute other UN-designated terrorists such as LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar.
A statement issued by FATF listed “progress by Iran, Pakistan and other countries that present a risk to the financial system” among the important issues to be discussed at the FATF Week, which will begin with the working group meetings on February 16 and conclude with the plenary meeting during February 19-21.
The meetings will also discuss developments in the financing of Islamic State, al-Qaeda and affiliates. Since Pakistan was put into the watchdog’s grey list, several FATF reports have said the country has failed to do enough to end fund-raising by LeT, JeM, Taliban, Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network.
This is the second FATF Week under the Chinese presidency of Xiangmin Liu.
“On Sunday…more than 800 representatives from 205 countries and jurisdictions around the world, the IMF, UN, World Bank and other organisations will arrive for FATF Week in Paris…Six days of meetings will focus on global action to follow the money that fuels crime and terrorism and reduce the harm caused to people and society,” the statement said.
Indian officials had noted both the timing of Saeed’s conviction and the fact that it can be challenged in higher courts. “Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen,” said a person who declined to be named.
They also pointed out that Pakistan was yet to prosecute those involved in financing and planning key terror attacks such as the ones in Mumbai and Pathankot.
A recent report by the Washington Examiner pointed out even when Pakistan has taken action against UN-designated terrorists such as Saeed and his aides, it has used “its diplomatic offices to get the United Nations to make exceptions for Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front groups” – a reference to an official request from Islamabad for Saeed and his aides to be allowed to access funds in their frozen bank accounts.
The report also said when Pakistan cracked down on LeT, Islamic State and al-Qaeda supporters, it “treated them lightly”. It added, “Even though terror financing convictions should bring (sentences of) between one and five years, Pakistani courts gave less than one year in 27% of cases.”
With the US seen as overly dependent on Pakistan for swinging a deal with the Afghan Taliban, diplomats of other Western nations expect an easing of pressure from Washington on Islamabad. Pakistan is also not expected to be put on FATF’s “black list”, which would entail harsher sanctions, as such a move would be blocked by China, Malaysia and Turkey. Three countries are enough to prevent a move from going ahead and Turkish President Recep Erdogan has already spoken of supporting Pakistan at FATF meetings.