ISLAMABAD: Senior US diplomat Alice Wells on Monday praised the progress made by Pakistan towards improving its counter-terror financing and anti-money laundering regimes as part of efforts to meet requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global illicit financing watchdog.
“It is heartening to see that Pakistan government has made significant progress on these matters and that too in a short time,” Ambassador Wells said during a meeting with Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, according to readout of the meeting issued by the interior ministry.
During the meeting, she was briefed about the steps taken by the Pakistan government to overcome shortcomings in its financial system for getting out of FATF’s grey list.
The senior US diplomat arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a four-day visit after visiting India and Sri Lanka. Her visit’s agenda revolves around bilateral Pak-US cooperation.
On a four-day visit to Pakistan, Wells holds talks with interior minister
The visit is taking place in the backdrop of reported progress in Taliban-US talks being facilitated by Islamabad. The likely positive outcome of the talks could improve the complexion of the Pak-US relationship as well.
Pakistan was put on the FATF’s grey list in June 2018 for 15 months. However, due to inadequate progress Pakistan’s stay on the list was extended by four months at the last review held in Oct 2019. Islamabad’s progress would now be re-assessed at the watchdog’s upcoming meeting in Paris on Feb 16.
One of the key areas in which Pakistan was found to be lagging at the last evaluation was the poor conviction rate in terror-financing cases. It is, however, generally believed that eventual fate of Pakistan’s case at FATF would depend more on geo-political environment than the actual progress on the ground by the Pakistani government.
Speaking at a private reception, Amb Wells denied this perception, saying there was no such quid pro quo and that Pakistan’s case would be decided on merit.
She avoided commenting on reports about the likely progress in talks with the Taliban and said that she was following the situation.
Interior Minister Shah informed the US diplomat that the mechanism for the registration of international NGOs has been streamlined. “Organisations fulfilling the criteria would not face any problem in their operations,” he assured, adding that those against whom there were reservations would be given an opportunity to address concerns.
The government initiated fresh registration of INGOs in 2015 after the announcement of the registration policy. Under the new registration policy the scope of activities of INGOs was restricted because of which some of the organisations, particularly those working on issues like democracy, governance, rule of law and security, had to close down. The policy was criticised by donor countries as restrictive and non-transparent.
However, the government had been insisting that the scope of activities for the international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) had been redefined in accordance with national requirements.
With regard to illegal Pakistani immigrants in the United States, Mr Shah said that the problem had been resolved to a great extent.
“We appreciate the Pakistan government’s cooperation on the matter,” the American diplomat said. She said that US intends to develop a strong system and mechanism that can be utilised for dealing with similar issues in future.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020