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ISLAMABAD: Citing “ani­­mosity towards Pak­istan”, Islamabad has appro­ached Financial Action Task Force (FATF) president Marshall Billingslea seeking removal of India as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Group to ensure “that [the] FATF process is fair, unbiased and objective”.

The demand was made in a formal letter by Finance Minister Asad Umar two weeks before the scheduled visit of a delegation of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) — a regional associate of the FATF — to Islamabad on March 24.

Mr Umar told Dawn on Saturday that friendly countries had confirmed to Pakistan that Indian co-chair of APG was lobbying with other countries to get Pakistan blacklisted. “India is calling other members of APG to blacklist Pakistan,” the minister said, adding it is not the mandate of the APG co-chair to be biased.

Unprecedentedly, the co-chair also submitted an assessment report that according to Mr Umar was certainly ‘biased and unfair’.

“We have taken unusual steps for being compliant with the FATF recommendations so far,” the minister said.

Asad Umar writes to task force president about New Delhi’s animosity

Recently Pakistan banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) as part of FATF recommendations. These groups along with other proscribed organisations are also being placed in the high risk category so that their activities and profiles can be monitored and re-examined under heightened security checks.

The APG delegation would review Pakistan’s performance on the basis of Islamabad’s fresh exercise over the next two days (March 25-26) and submit its assessment report to the FATF headquarters.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier announced that his government would implement all FATF recommendations meant for controlling money laundering and terror financing if there was any.

The minister questioned how the Indian member was calling other member countries to make harsh recommendations against Pakistan. The review should be based on facts and not on lobbying, he said, adding the forum should not be used for political speeches.

According to a statement issued by the finance division, the finance minister cited “India’s animosity towards Pakistan”, which he said was well known, as the reason for the request for removal of India as co-chair.

The minister drew the FATF president’s attention to “the recent violation of Pakistan’s airspace and dropping of bombs inside Pakistani territory” that he said was “another manifestation of India’s hostile attitude”.

“The letter referred to Indian Finance Minister’s statement regarding efforts for global isolation of Pakistan and [the] Indian call for [the] blacklisting of Pakistan during the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) meeting on February 18, 2019, which demonstrated Indian intentions to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests,” the statement added.

In his letter to the FATF president, the finance minister sought to reason that given the “clear Indian motivation to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests, Indian presence among the evaluators and as co-chair of the Joint Group would undermine the impartiality and spirit of the peer review process, which lies at the heart of FATF’s methodology and objective assessment”.

“We firmly believe that India’s involvement in the ICRG process will not be fair towards Pakistan,” he asserted.

The finance minister, therefore, “urged that [the] FATF appoint another country as co-chair of the Joint Group instead of India to ensure an impartial assessment of Pakistan’s progress in regard to the FATF Action Plan.

“The ICRG and FATF meetings must not be allowed to be used as a platform by India to make political speeches against Pakistan. The sanctity of FATF processes require that separate assessments by individual countries for politically motivated outcomes are not allowed under the ICRG review,” the statement quoted the finance minister’s letter as saying.

Mr Asad, however, assured the FATF president that “Pakistan remains firm in its commitment to work with FATF/ICRG and the Joint Group and to implement the Action Plan”.

According to the finance ministry, Pakistan had raised its concern with the Asia-Pacific Group in June 2018 over India’s negative attitude and intentions to hurt Pakistan’s interests, but no action was taken. Similar concerns were also shared with the FATF secretariat and ICRG co-chairs on the sidelines of the FATF plenary of February 2019, the statement added.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019