Pak taking steps not to please US but for own benefit: Minister
Islamabad, Feb 24 : Pakistan’s Interior Minister said today that authorities were taking steps not to please the US but for the country’s own benefit, a day after Islamabad avoided being placed in a watch-list by a global watchdog.
Pakistan escaped from being placed on the watch-list of countries that have failed to combat terror financing and counter money laundering, state-run Pakistan Television reported.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in a report issued yesterday, named nine countries with “strategic deficiencies,” including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia. Pakistan escaped mention.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the FATF will decide in June whether to place Pakistan on the ‘grey list’ of countries with strategic deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system.
The decision was taken at an extraordinary second vote towards the end of the five-day plenary session of the group in Paris, he said.
It was a shock for Pakistan as just two days ago the motion was defeated in the first round of discussion but officials said that the US used its clout to call for a successful second vote, the minister said.
“The resolution against us was political and used to pressurise Pakistan… We are taking steps not to please the US but for our own benefit. We will follow our own agenda to achieve national goals,” Iqbal told reporters in Lahore.
Pakistan was on the ‘grey list’ from 2012 to 2015 but it did not impact the economy in that period, he said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had claimed that Pakistan was given a three-month reprieve to take measures to avoid being placed in the ‘grey list’ of the group.
Currently, the FATF’s website shows Ethiopia, Iraq, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu and Yemen in the ‘grey list’.
Meanwhile, ‘Dawn’ newspaper reported that Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Miftah Ismail, who led Pakistan’s FATF moot, said Pakistan is set to be “grey listed” by the FATF in June.
Pakistan and the FATF will work out an “action plan” to plug the deficiencies, he said, adding that an action plan will be put up for approval by consensus in June.
After that, implementation of the plan will begin, monitored by the Asia Pacific Group, a part of the global FATF network, Ismail said.
The failure to build consensus on the action plan could result in placing Pakistan on the black list, which currently applied only to Iran and North Korea, he said.
Ismail said that the ‘grey list’ status does little more than raising the compliance burden on counterparts, such as correspondent banks, dealing with entities within Pakistan’s financial system, and therefore attaches an additional cost to many external sector transactions.
The US and the UK had jointly moved the FATF nominating Pakistan for placement on the ‘grey list’ and were subsequently joined by France and Germany, he said.
The report said that the accusation against Pakistan was that it had not taken action on some of the entities and individuals designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
More specifically the concern was about Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) being allowed to operate in the country, and Saeed being free to organise rallies and raise funds, it said.
“Pakistan has serious concerns over and objections to the introduction of this new ‘nomination’ procedure, which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of the FATF,” said Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal.
Days before the FATF meeting, Pakistan had amended the anti-terror legislation through a presidential ordinance to include all UN-listed individuals and groups in the national listings of proscribed outfits and persons.
Similarly, an announcement was also made to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia to meet a key demand of the kingdom in an effort to get the crucial Gulf Cooperation Council vote at the FATF.