Only politics can keep Pakistan on FATF grey list: Foreign Office

Published February 19, 2022
Spokesman Asim Iftikhar addresses the weekly media briefing at the Foreign Office on Friday. — Screengrab via FO Facebook
Spokesman Asim Iftikhar addresses the weekly media briefing at the Foreign Office on Friday. — Screengrab via FO Facebook

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Friday that Pakistan had fully complied with the conditions laid down by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for exiting its ‘grey list’ and suggested that only political considerations of the members of the illicit financing watchdog can hold it back in that category.

“In the context of FATF, we have faithfully complied with and completed all technical requirements and hope that the outcome would be in the positive direction,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar said at the weekly media briefing.

However, while underscoring that Pakistan as a “responsible country” does not publicly comment on FATF’s processes, he cautioned that “there are issues of politicisation by some countries, and that remains a problem”.

The FATF’s working group and plenary meetings will be held in Paris from Feb 21 to March 4. During the plenary session, the watchdog reviews the progress made by the countries on its grey and black lists and accordingly updates them.

Pakistan has been on FATF’s grey list, also known as the list of ‘jurisdictions under increased monitoring’, since June 2018. Its performance with regard to combating money laundering and terrorist financing has been under regular review since then.

Although successive reviews have noted the progress made by the country towards tackling illicit funds, the watchdog has retained it on the grey list. This was ostensibly done to maintain pressure on Islamabad to complete the implementation of the action plan it had agreed with FATF for addressing the strategic weaknesses in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regimes.

The initial action plan comprised 27 action items, out of which Pakistan had addressed 26 by October last year, when FATF’s last plenary was held. However, FATF had in June given an additional action plan to Pakistan comprising seven items focused on dealing with money laundering.

Therefore, there are 34 items in the two action plans assigned to Pakistan, 30 of which had been complied with by October.

The upcoming FATF plenary would take its decision based on the latest report submitted by its regional affiliate — the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering — on Feb 1.

After the plenary held in October, Marcus Pleyer, the watchdog’s president, had emphasised upon Pakistan to continue to demonstrate that terrorism financing investigations and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups. Moreover, he had asked Islamabad to strengthen its anti-money laundering regime as “serious deficiencies” had been noted.

TERRORISM INCIDENTS: In reply to questions regarding recent acts of terrorism, particularly in Balochistan, Mr Iftikhar said the government was taking all “necessary steps” for dealing with the terrorist threat from across the border and its sponsors, specifically India.

“There is a track record of terrorists getting support from abroad and we are fully aware of that and we will take all necessary steps to bring this cross-border terrorism to a stop,” he emphasised.

The spokesman said Islamabad was engaged with the Taliban government on this issue.

Commenting on the visit of Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi earlier this week, he said: “It was part of the ongoing very constructive and fruitful dialogue and engagement of Pakistan with Iran.”

He described Iran as “a close friend and partner”.

With reference to the 15th anniversary of the Samjhauta Express train blast, the spokesman renewed the call for justice for the victims and asked India to shun terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Sixty-eight passengers, including 44 Pakistan nationals, were killed in the attack.

Indian courts had, after a questionable process, acquitted the accused, including Swami Aseemanand, who had publicly confessed to being the mastermind of the attack.

“India’s continuing failure to provide justice to the victims of this horrendous terror attack is a reconfirmation of the culture of impunity that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks enjoy in India,” the spokesman said, adding that the victims’ families were awaiting justice.

“The reality of today’s India is awash with injustice, inequality, and unabashed rampant state-sponsored terrorism,” he further said.

India’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office to convey Pakistan’s protest over India’s failure to punish the terrorists behind the attack.

Mr Iftikhar said the Indian diplomat was told Pakistan was alarmed that the Hindutva extremism and ‘saffron terror’ that had motivated the inhuman attack 15 years ago, has intensified manifold under the current dispensation in India.

“The government of India is advised to put an end to state patronage of terrorism and bring to trial the terrorists behind the Samjhauta Express blasts. Pakistan also calls upon India to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, and faithfully comply with its obligations under international legal regime governing terrorism.”

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2022

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