FATF to review Pakistan status today

FATF to review Pakistan status today

Officials and diplomats say the task force is likely to retain the grey list status with a ‘stern warning’

As officials from the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of the 39-member Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the risk rating for Pakistan and Iran, India plans to raise the repeated “politicisation” of the process by Pakistan, which is aiming to avoid being “blacklisted” by the group for its actions on countering terrorism.

In particular, Indian officials are expected to point to statements by the leaders of Turkey and Malaysia, who have gone public on their plans to back Pakistan, instead of going by the regulations of the FATF that evaluates countries on the basis of technical parameters and maintains confidential proceedings.

In the past two weeks, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have issued statements promising to support Pakistan at the FATF, as well as on Kashmir.

The External Affairs Ministry issued sharp responses to both statements, in addition to issuing the Turkish Ambassador to India a “strong demarche” on Monday over the references to India’s “internal affairs”.

Asked about India’s plans to raise the issue at the FATF, however, the Ministry declined to comment. “It is for the FATF to decide,” said an official, adding that the government “would not like to comment on FATF deliberations”.

Black and grey: On terror funding and Pakistan

In the past, the FATF had taken strong exception to public statements and “politicisation” of its processes.

Decision on Friday

The decision of the FATF’s plenary session (February 16-21) on whether to retain Pakistan on its “greylist” of countries of concern, downgrade it to its ‘blacklist’ for non-compliance, or let it off for progress shown, will be finalised on Friday at the end of the session.

At the last meeting of the Asia Pacific Group in Beijing last November, Pakistan had been judged as having cleared 14 of the 27-point action plan checklist it was given by the group on countering terror financing and black money laundering.

India hopes to highlight the unfinished items on Pakistan’s agenda, as well as the government’s claimed inability to track UN Security Council-designated terrorists like Jaish e Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and 26/11 LeT operations chief Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi as India seeks to push for more stringent action against Pakistan.

However, officials and diplomats aware of the process said it was more likely that Pakistan would be retained on the “greylist” for the moment with a “stern warning” rather than being moved to the blacklist during this round at the FATF, for a number of reasons.

To begin with, there is a general perception that, albeit on paper, Pakistan does appear to have made some positive moves on the FATF’s demands, including amending its laws and a crackdown on bank accounts and premises of terror groups such as the LeT/JuD and JeM.

After a visit to Islamabad in January, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said the U.S. had “been pleased to see progress by Pakistan towards fulfilling FATF obligations”.

Saeed issue

Pakistan will seek to highlight the Pakistani court’s recent conviction and sentencing of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed for terror financing, although the appeals process will continue. As the U.S. and allies inch closer to a peace deal with the Taliban at the end of the month, they are likely to depend on Pakistan to help guarantee the deal, and may hold off pushing Pakistan to the blacklist.

Finally, say officials, the FATF works on a system of “consensus” and three countries, China, Turkey and Malaysia, are expected to veto an attempt to blacklist Pakistan at this juncture.

New Delhi’s own tensions with Turkey and Malaysia over their statements on Kashmir post-Article 370 have made that task more challenging, the officials conceded.

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