The United States has requested to include Pakistan in a terrorism monitoring monitoring group with a money laundering monitoring group, according to a high-ranking Pakistani official. In recent months, Pakistan has sought to prevent inclusion in a list of countries deemed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to be non-compliant with terrorist financing provisions.
The United States is threatening to crack down on Islamabad for its alleged links with militant Islamists, and last month the administration of President Donald Trump suspended $ 2 billion in aid. Islamabad, which rejects the support of militants in Afghanistan and India, has reacted angrily to threats from the US to take further punitive measures.
A meeting of the FATF member states will take place next week in Paris, where the organization could accept the request to Pakistan. The FATF, an intergovernmental body based in Paris, sets global standards for combating illegal financing.
Pakistan’s de facto Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told Reuters that the US and Britain had made the request a few weeks ago and would later persuade France and Germany to support him.
We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France to withdraw the nomination, “said Ismail over the phone from Europe.” We are also quite confident that even if the US did not withdraw the nomination, we will prevail and not be put on the watchlist. ”
Pakistan was on the FATF watch list from 2012 to 2015. A senior US official monitoring US policy in the region said Pakistan was “always selective” in combating militants who use their territory as a base. It is time that this ends, and so we are working with our allies, who are also affected, to take effective action against groups like the Haqqanis and elements of the Taliban, the official said, referring to militants walking along the border with Afghanistan.
The FATF had previously warned Islamabad that it could be put back on the watch list without further efforts to break the flow of money for militants. Pakistani officials and Western diplomats say inclusion in the FATF watchlist could strike Pakistan’s economy hard as it hampers foreign investors and companies from doing business in the atomically armed South Asian nation.
“If you’re placed on a terrorist watchlist, you’ll have to do all the (additional) investigations,” Pakistan’s former anti-terrorist leader Khawaja Khalid Farooq told Reuters. “It can hit the economy very badly.
The officials also fear that it would be more difficult and more expensive for Pakistan to borrow from international debt markets if it were put on the FATF watch list.
Ismail said the FATF movement focused on Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani Islamist accused by India of planning the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and killing 166 people. This implied that the United States had petitioned for India’s offer, he said.
A US embassy spokesman in Islamabad said that the United States is “absolutely not” working for India.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “The US has repeatedly expressed our long-standing concerns about the continuing shortcomings in the implementation of the Pakistani anti-money laundering / anti-terror financial regime.
“In addition to more systematic concerns, this includes Pakistan’s failure to fulfill its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267,” she added.
Resolution 1267 requires all states to freeze the assets of individuals and organizations on a list established by the resolution, including Saeed and its “Islamic charities”. Washington has declared Saeed a terrorist.
Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks, stating that the charitable organizations he founded and controlled have no ties to militants.
On Monday, Pakistan announced it had changed its anti-terrorism bill to ban militant groups and organizations that the UN calls “terrorists”, a measure aimed at these charities. Pakistan Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf told Reuters that the legislative amendments approved by the country’s president should reflect the obligations under the USSCR.
“We need to move with the changing times,” said Ausaf, adding that the new laws would allow the government to pursue fundraising activities by all groups banned by the United Nations and to take penalties such as freezing their assets.
In December, the government of Pakistan drafted plans to take control of Saeed’s Jamaat-Ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. Critics say such efforts have eased after pressure on Pakistan. Washington and the U.N. say the JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are a front line for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which Saeed founded in 1987.
Ismail said that Pakistan has already taken over parts of Saeed’s organizations and that he believes that other FATF states would recognize that Pakistan has made serious efforts to deal with militant financing.
He added that efforts to put Islamabad on the FATF watch list were counterproductive as Pakistan is “mutually evaluated” by experts from other countries who measure progress in reducing illicit cash flows. It’s a very intrusive process and … we’re happy to work with them, but while we’re evaluating each other, it makes no sense that we’re on the watchlist now, said Ismail.