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Pakistan Scrambles to Whitewash FATF Blacklist Threat by Lobbying Nations and Using Diplomacy

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last year placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing. The Paris-based body had said unless Islamabad met its commitment by October, it could get blacklisted.

Arunima | CNN-News18Arunima24

Updated:September 25, 2019, 11:48 PM IST
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Pakistan Scrambles to Whitewash FATF Blacklist Threat by Lobbying Nations and Using Diplomacy
File photo. of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is lobbying heads of state on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York against possible blacklisting of his cash-strapped country by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Top Indian government sources told CNN-News18 that Khan has met the heads of two dozen nations so far to garner support.

The FATF last year placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing. The Paris-based body had said unless Islamabad met its commitment by October, it could get blacklisted. The organisation will have its plenary meeting from the 13th to the 18th of next month.

The FATF was formed by the 1989 G7 Summit in Paris and was charged with studying money laundering trends, monitoring legislative, financial and law enforcement activities taken at the national and international level, reporting on compliance, and issuing recommendations and standards to combat money laundering. Its mandate was expanded to include terrorist financing following the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks in the United States.

Officials involved in the FATF process say lobbying is considered against the task force’s laid-down procedures. Sources said at last month’s Bangkok meeting of the watchdog’s Asia/Pacific Group (APG), Pakistan failed to show “prosecutions or demonstrable action against globally designated terrorists and terror networks” and, so, it is relying on diplomacy to save itself from blacklisting.

Indian government officials said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement at the “Leaders’ Dialogue on Strategic Responses to Terrorist and Violent Extremist Narratives” on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York on politicisation of the FATF process was meant to highlight steps being undertaken by Pakistan.

“PM Modi suggested institutionalising counter-terrorism cooperation at the multilateral level. He said terrorists should not be allowed to get funds and arms. For this objective to be realised, we need to avoid politicisation of mechanisms like UN listings and FATF,” said Anumula Gitesh Sarma, secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

A blacklisting by the FATF could be a crippling blow for Pakistan, which is grappling with double-digit inflation, high interest rates, and spiralling unemployment. Khan earlier referred to India’s efforts at the FATF as part of a concerted plan against his country. “We found India was pushing to blacklist us at FATF and we realised they have an agenda,” he had said.

The watchdog blacklists countries which it judges to be disregarding the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, calling them Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs).

Indian government officials involved with the FATF process said the 38-member organisation works on the principle of consensus and a lack of it could lead to the blacklisting proposal getting rejected. China currently heads the body and is likely to support Pakistan against India's attempt to get it blacklisted for terror financing.

“If three countries raise objections against the blacklisting proposal, it will be rejected,” said an official. “China is likely to support Pakistan. They are also hoping the US will not openly side with India and against Pakistan on this. The current lobbying by Imran khan is to try and get as many countries on Pakistan's side as possible.”

Pakistan's finance ministry defended the country before the APG in Bangkok where the US, UK, Germany and France nominated Islamabad for greylisting. Australia, Japan, India and China were also present at the meeting where Pakistan failed on 21 of the 27 action parameters. Sources said in the mutual evaluation review, Pakistan was unable to clear 40 of 51 parameters. Out of 118 UN- designated terrorists, Pakistan could show action against only five, including 2008 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed. No demonstrable action could be shown against individuals like Masood Azhar, Rauf Azhar and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi or groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Falah-e-Insaniat, Haqqani network or Daesh (Islamic State).

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