FATF to Put Pakistan Back on Terrorist-Financing Watchlist: Report
The move is part of a broader US strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut links to terrorists backing attacks in India.
A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist-financing watchlist, a Pakistan government official and a diplomat said on Friday, 23 February, in a likely blow to the country’s economy and its strained relations with the United States.
The move is part of a broader US strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.
The Pakistani government official said the South Asian nation would be officially placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) watchlist in June at its next meeting, which is why the FATF statement on Friday did not mention Pakistan.
The move comes days after reports that Pakistan had been given a three-month reprieve before being placed on the list, which could hamper banking and hurt foreign investment.
The US has spent the past week lobbying member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan on a so-called grey list of nations that are not doing enough to combat terrorism financing.
Pakistan had launched last-minute efforts to avoid being placed on the list, such as taking over charities linked to a powerful Islamist figure.
However, the campaign proved insufficient and the group decided late on Thursday that Pakistan would be put back on the watchlist, a senior Pakistani official and a diplomat with knowledge of the latest FATF discussions told Reuters. The diplomat said:
The decision was taken yesterday (21 February). The chair (of FATF) is expected to make a statement some time this afternoon in Paris.
Both officials spoke on a condition of anonymity.
Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman declined to confirm or deny the news at a regular news briefing on Friday, saying the FATF would make an announcement.
Pakistan was on the list for three years until 2015. Pakistani officials say the country managed to grow its economy during this period and raise money on international bond markets, so the economic impact will not be as big as some fear.
Earlier in the week, China, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were opposing the US-led move against Pakistan but by late on Thursday, both China and the GCC dropped their opposition, the diplomatic source said.
The Pakistani official who was familiar with the negotiations said the Saudi-led GCC had been “flipped” by the United States between Tuesday and Thursday. But he played down China’s role, saying the Chinese were “helpful” to Pakistan.
Pakistan, the government source said, was convinced it would have three months to satisfy all other FATF issues and was negotiating with FATF co-chairs from Italy and America about what they need to do ahead of the June session when the United States demanded to raise its motion again late on Thursday.
The US Embassy in Islamabad did not respond to a request for comment.
Pakistani businessmen fear being on the FATF list could endanger Pakistan's handful of remaining banking links to the outside world, causing real financial pain to the economy just as a general election looms.
Under FATF rules one country's opposition is not enough to prevent a motion from being successful. Britain, France and Germany backed the US move.
Pakistan has sought to head off its inclusion on the list by amending its anti-terrorism laws and by taking over organisations controlled by Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistan-based Islamist accused by the United States and India of being behind 2008 militant attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that Pakistan had received a three-month reprieve, adding that it was "grateful to friends who helped".
US President Donald Trump, last month, ordered a big suspension in security aid to Pakistan over what the United States sees as its failure to crack down on militants.
Pakistan rejects accusations that it sponsors Taliban militants fighting US forces in neighbouring Afghanistan and says it is doing all it can to combat militancy.
(This story has been published in an arrangement with Reuters)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.