ISLAMABAD: The civil and military leadership of the country on Thursday put their heads together to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties between Pakistan and the US in light of the recent successful visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US.
The high-level meeting was held at the Prime Minister Office (PMO) to review outcome of the PM’s visit to the US and discuss the coming United Nations General Assembly summit in New York. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Khan, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi, Special Assistant to the PM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Ambassador-at- Large Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.
According to the PMO, the meeting also discussed measures to carry forward the decisions made during the prime minister’s visit to execution phase while staying in close coordination with the US authorities, including a proposed visit of President Donald Trump to Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, the prime minister expressed satisfaction on his successful visit and acknowledged President Trump’s vision regarding peace in the region and Pak-US relations.
PM happy with Washington visit, acknowledges Trump’s vision on regional peace
Prime Minister Khan said he was convinced that a robust bilateral relationship was not only a desire of the US and Pakistan’s leadership but it would also contribute to regional peace and stability.
Earlier, the prime minister termed his US visit successful and said he had pleaded the case of Pakistan in an effective way.
President Trump, in a letter to Prime Minister Khan, had sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation in achieving what he said was his most important regional priority: a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war.
The prime minister had said Pakistan had always called for dialogue and a negotiated peaceful settlement, adding that the country’s role had been acknowledged.
It is believed that the prime minister’s US visit has plugged a breach in the bilateral relations. He had told President Trump that Pakistan wanted to have good and respectful relations with the US.
Members of the National Assembly standing committee on foreign Affairs have noted that Pakistan needs to utilise its bargaining position in Afghanistan along with diplomacy to fulfil the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements.
The committee members unanimously acknowledged that the finance ministry alone could not meet the FATF requirements and there was a strong need of joint efforts by the diplomatic corps of the country to utilise the strategic position of Pakistan in negotiations with the global powers.
A committee meeting held in the ministry of foreign affairs was briefed by the officials of the finance ministry on the efforts made to meet the FATF requirements.
Due to the sensitivity of the issue, the officials had requested that the committee proceedings be held in-camera and the request was approved by chairman of the committee Malik Mohammad Ehsanullah Tiwana.
However, an official of the finance ministry told Dawn that the committee was briefed about the two revised bills seeking amendments to anti-money laundering law and foreign exchange regulations to meet requirements of the FATF.
The two bills are aimed at strengthening existing laws on money laundering and foreign exchange control to make them more stringent to fight money laundering, particularly through hundi and hawala, and effectively regulate foreign exchange transactions to meet standards of the Paris-based global watchdog on financial crimes.
Pakistan has been on the FATF’s grey list since June 2018 and the deadline for the country to comply with global standards on financial business and transactions is October 2019.
The committee was informed that in case of a negative report, Pakistan would be placed on the blacklist, which would have serious economic implications.
At the same time the country is under the International Monetary Fund programme and the international donor too has asked Pakistan to meet the FATF requirements.
These amendments have recently been approved by the National Assembly’s standing committees on finance and foreign affairs.
“A suggestion was forwarded by Ramesh Vankwani that all efforts to clear Pakistan out of the grey list have to be linked between the defence ministry, the foreign office and the finance ministry, and it was agreed,” the official said.
The committee observed that relations with US had significantly improved and the US should be told about the conditions prevailing in the region, mainly violations of ceasefire by India along the Line of Control (LoC).
“The members noted that the violations by India might be a deliberate attempt to distract Pakistan from focusing on undertaking measures to curb money laundering and illegal movement of money,” the official said.
Some of the members observed that money laundering and terror financing had strong links with turmoil and instability in Afghanistan.
The committee members were also briefed by the foreign minister about the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US, but he had to leave the meeting to meet US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in the same building.
The committee observed that the issues like Indian violation of ceasefire should be taken up with the US as tranquillity along the LOC would allow Pakistan to play a stronger role in bringing peace in Afghanistan and curbing illegal movement of money.
Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2019