WASHINGTON: The United States recognises and supports Pakistan’ continued efforts to meet the requirements for coming out of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) watch-list, says the US State Department.

At a Monday afternoon news briefing, the department’s spokesperson Ned Price also acknowledged Pakistan’s “significant progress” on the international watchdog’s original action plan agreed in June 2018.

Responding to a question about India’s reported role in keeping Pakistan on the FATF monitoring list, Mr Price said: “Well, you’re referring to Pakistan’s obligations under the Financial Action Task Force, and we do recognise, and we support Pakistan’s continued efforts to satisfy those obligations. Pakistan has made significant progress on its first action plan with 26 of 27 action items largely addressed.”

The United States, he said, would “encourage Pakistan to continue working with the FATF and the international community to swiftly complete the remaining action item by demonstrating that terrorism financing, investigations, and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated groups”. In its June 2021 report, the FATF had also acknowledged that “Pakistan’s continued political commitment has led to significant progress across a comprehensive counter financial terrorism action plan”.

State department acknowledges ‘significant progress’ made by Islamabad on action plan

Mr Price said that the US would “further encourage Pakistan to expeditiously implement its new second action plan”, which involves implementing the remaining item.

The US statement came a day after the Indian media reported Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar’s statement that the BJP government had ensured that Pakistan remained on the FATF’s grey list.

“Due to us, Pakistan is under the lens of FATF, and it was kept in the grey list,” Mr Jaishankar said while addressing a virtual training programme on foreign policy for BJP leaders, according to the Hindustan Times.

Reacting to these remarks, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement on Monday, saying that the Indian foreign minister had vindicated Pakistan’s longstanding stance on “India’s negative role” in the global financial watchdog.

The FO said the Indian foreign minister’s statement had exposed India’s “true colours” and “duplicitous” role.

“The statement is just further corroboration of India’s continued efforts to use an important technical forum for its narrow political designs against Pakistan.”

The FATF had announced on June 25 that Pakistan would continue to remain on the watchdog’s increased monitoring list till it addressed the single remaining item on the original action plan agreed to in June 2018 as well as all items on a parallel action plan handed out by the watchdog’s regional partner — the Asia Pacific Group — in 2019.

The addition of a new action plan alongside the original one, which Pakistan had completed except for one agenda item, forced analysts and observers to notice that the goalpost was being shifted for Pakistan despite its high level of compliance.

Last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that India wanted to use the FATF forum for “political purposes” but should not be allowed to do so.

Federal Energy Hammad Azhar had also hit out at India, saying its face had been “badly unveiled” and it had “overplayed its hand”, because of which everyone now knew that it had one purpose — to politicise the FATF.

“I think India’s thoughts and politicisation efforts there [in the forum] are losing weight with time because they have become so visible,” he had said.

Earlier this year, the FO had criticised India for linking a conviction of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi with the FATF, terming it “yet another Indian attempt to politicise FATF and use its processes against Pakistan”.

The FATF had formally placed Pakistan on its grey list in June 2018 due to strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/counter-terror financing regime after a push from India supported by the US, the UK and some European countries.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2021

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