Wary Pak wants India's removal from key FATF panel
Islamabad, Mar 10: Pakistan, wary of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, has urged it to remove India from the co-chair of a body that is reviewing Islamabad's progress on the implementation of an action plan to combat terrorism.
The Paris-based global body is working to curb “terrorism financing” and money laundering and has asked Pakistan to reassess the operation of banned “terrorist outfits” in the country. Pakistan is under intense international pressure to rein in militant groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) after the Pulwama suicide attack.
In June last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.
Pakistan Finance Minister Asad Umar wrote to FATF President Marshall Billingslea to appoint any other member as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific's Joint Group, in place of India, to ensure that the FATF review process is fair, unbiased and objective, said the Ministry of Finance on Saturday.
The Joint Group is a sub-body of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of the Asia Pacific Group (APG). Pakistan is a member of the APG and its case is being presented before the FATF by the APG. India's Financial Intelligence Unit's (FIU) director general is the co-chair of the Joint Group, the ‘Express Tribune’ reported.
"India's animosity towards Pakistan is well known and the recent violation of Pakistan's airspace and dropping of bombs inside Pakistani territory is another manifestation of India's hostile attitude," it quoted Umar as writing to Billingslea while seeking removal of India.
"Pakistan will also lobby with the friendly countries to get India removed from the co-chair of the Joint Group after New Delhi abused its position in the last FATF meeting," Umar told the newspaper.
"India submitted a separate dossier against Pakistan that undermined the FATF's neutrality," he said.
India recently submitted a dossier to Pakistan on the role of JeM in the Pulwama suicide attack.
On Saturday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that India will remain resolute in its determination to persuade the international community of the necessity of compelling Pakistan to move beyond mere words and to show credible, verifiable and sustained actions against terror groups in the country.
The finance minister said Pakistan would not boycott the FATF process but will use every available avenue to make sure that India no more politicises the global body.
Because of India's move, the FATF did not express satisfaction on the implementation of the action plan.
In his letter, Umar referred to a statement regarding the efforts for global isolation of Pakistan and India's call for the blacklisting of Pakistan during the ICRG meeting on February 18, which demonstrated Indian intentions to hurt Pakistan's economic interests.
The FATF has asked Pakistan to properly demonstrate that it has a better understanding of risks posed by proscribed organisations operating from its soil.
Umar has written the letter about two months before the Joint Group would review implementation on over 15 points of the agreed Action Plan. The Joint Group meeting is scheduled to take place in May in Sri Lanka. After that, the FATF Plenary meeting will be held in the United States in June this year, the report said.
Pakistan is again anticipating tough Indian opposition during May and June meetings, the report said.
"Given the clear Indian motivation to hurt Pakistan's economic interests, Indian presence among the evaluators and as co-chair of the Joint Group would undermine the impartiality and spirit of the ‘peer review' process, which lies at the heart of FATF's methodology and objective assessment," Umar wrote.
The minister said Pakistan firmly believes that India's involvement in the ICRG process will not be fair towards Pakistan and urged that FATF appoint another country as co-chair of the Joint Group instead of India to ensure an impartial assessment of Pakistan's progress in regard to the FATF action plan.
The minister assured the FATF president that "Pakistan remains firm in its commitment to work with FATF/ICRG and the Joint Group and to implement the action plan" and demanded that "FATF must take steps to ensure that the ICRG process is fair, unbiased and impartial towards Pakistan".
Although Pakistan has taken up the issue of Indian attempts to politicise the FATF, it also needs to strengthen the National Counter Terrorism Authority and the Financial Monitoring Unit to present a strong case in the next FATF and ICRG meetings, the report said.
There is also a need to strengthen the institutional capacity of the FMU by appointing people who have a background in handling the AML and Counter-Terrorism Financing issues.
So far, most of the staff comprises people who have come on deputation from the State Bank of Pakistan, the country's central bank. The FMU also needs to be equipped to tackle challenges posed by the flow of black money from the non-banking financial sector, the report said.