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WASHINGTON: A global anti-money-laundering watchdog begins a week-long plenary session in Paris on Sunday to review proposals that include putting Pakis­tan back on a list of countries which have failed to prevent terrorist financing.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 to develop policies to combat money laundering, but after 9/11 it focuses more on preventing terrorist financing.

The FATF announced on Saturday that the Feb 18-23 meetings would discuss impo­rtant issues to protect the integrity of the global fina­ncial system and contribute to security. Over 700 delegates from the FATF global network, as well as the United Nations, Inter­nati­onal Monetary Fund, World Bank and other partners, will attend the meetings.

Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, told Reuters last week that the United States and Britain had put forward a motion to place Pakistan on the FATF terrorist-financing watch list. Later, they also persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor the move.

At a Thursday afternoon news briefing in Washing­ton, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert hinted that the resolution had been submitted and would come up for discussion at the FATF meeting in Paris.

If adopted the resolution would place Pakistan on the FATF grey-list of “jurisdictions with deficient anti-money laundering regimes”, where it was from 2009-15.

In November 2017, the International Coopera­tion Review Group in Argentina adopted a resolution, calling attention to Pakistan’s support to the Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i- Moh­a­mmad and affiliated groups like Jamaatud Dawa. The meeting also demanded a full report on Pakistan’s eff­orts to curb terrorist financing before the FATF meetings.

“We will discuss a new counter-terrorist financing operational plan that will set out the actions the FATF will be taking in response to the changing terrorist financing threats,” the group said.

The decision to put Pakistan back on the list would be a major setback for Islamabad’s efforts to improve its image. It is also the first time ever that four countries have nominated a country for censure.

“We are now working with the US, the UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Mr Ismail told Reuters. “We are also quite hopeful that even if the US does not withdraw the nomination we will prevail and not be put on the list.”

Pakistan hopes that China, which has supported Pakis­tan in the past, will rescue it again. Pakistan has also lobbied for support with Russia, Turkey and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

But India, which is lobbying against Pakistan, sent a secretary-level delegation to Moscow on Jan 31 to persu­a­de Russia not to support Pak­istan. The Indian media reported that in his recent visits to Gulf countries, Ind­ian Prime Minister Narendra Mo­di also asked them not to support Pakistan at the FATF.

Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev, however, told The Hindu newspaper last week that “to corner Pakistan is not Russia’s policy”. He said Moscow would base its decision on “how weighty and substantiated the proof for Pakistan’s involvement in financing terrorism will be”.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2018