Islamabad mulls watchlist strategy

FALSE HOPE: Khawaja Asif

PAKISTAN will develop a strategy to avoid being put on a global terror financing watchlist, the fi­nance minister said on Monday (26), after China and Saudi Arabia deserted Islamabad over the is­sue at a recent meeting in Paris.  

Members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an anti-money-laundering watchdog based in the French capital, voted last week to place Pakistan on its grey list of nations which are not doing enough to combat terror financing in June, a diplomatic source said.  

That gives Pakistan three months to make enough changes to avoid being listed, which could hamper some for­eign investment and further strain rela­tions with Washington, where officials have put increasing pressure on Paki­stan over its alleged support for militant safe havens.  

“We will start meeting on the issue of FATF after March 1 to see what strategy we can devise,” finance minister Rana Afzal Khan said, adding that Pakistan has not yet received a list of actions it needs to implement.  

Observers are doubtful that Pakistan can meet the requirements in time, however.  

The move, which was not announced in FATF’s statement at the close of the six-day meeting, came after members had initially been unable to reach a consensus, with Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia holding out, the diplomatic source said.  

That saw Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Asif confidently tweet last week that Pakistan had avoided being grey-listed.  

But amid a flurry of diplomatic activity a second vote was held, with the US con­vincing Riyadh to change its vote and Beijing staying silent, the source said.  

The decision is a diplomatic blow to Islamabad’s relationship with its “all-weather” friend China, which has invested billions in the country’s infrastructure, and Saudi Arabia, to which Pakistan sent some 1,000 troops earlier this month.  

“It shows that the people who are concerned about terror financing are pretty broad,” the diplomatic source said.  

Pakistan was previously on the FATF list from 2012 until 2015.