Pakistan: Watchlist worry


FUNDING FEUD: US
secretary of state Rex
Tillerson (right) with
Pakistani foreign
minister Khawaja
Muhammad Asif in
Washington; and
(below) Hafiz Saeed
FUNDING FEUD: US secretary of state Rex Tillerson (right) with Pakistani foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif in Washington; and (below) Hafiz Saeed

US AND BRITAIN DEMAND ACTION AGAINST ALLEGED MILITANTS

The United States has put forward a motion to place Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watchlist with an anti-money laundering monitoring group, according to a sen­ior Pakistani official.  

Pakistan’s de facto finance minis­ter, Miftah Ismail, said the US and Britain put forward the motion several weeks ago, and then persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor it.  

“We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Ismail said. “We are also quite hopeful that even if the US did not withdraw the nomination, we will prevail and not be put on the watchlist.”  

Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a measure offi­cials fear could hurt its economy.  

The country was previously on the FATF watchlist from 2012 to 2015.  

The US has been threatening to get tough with Islamabad over its alleged ties with Islamist militants, and last month president Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion (£1.44bn).  

Islamabad, which denies assisting militants in Afghanistan and India, has reacted angrily to US threats of further punitive measures.  

A meeting of FATF member states is due to take place next week in Par­is, where the organisation could adopt the motion on Pakistan.  

A senior US official who follows US policy in the region said Pakistan has “always been selective” in cracking down on militants who use its terri­tory as a base.  

“It is time for that to stop, and so we are working with our allies, who also are affected, to see effective ac­tion against groups such as the Haqqanis and elements of the Tali­ban,” said the official, referring to militants operating along the border with Afghanistan.  

The FATF, an inter-governmental body based in Paris that sets global standards for fighting illicit finance, had previously warned Islamabad it could be put back on the list without further efforts to crack down on the flow of funds to militants.  

Pakistani officials and Western diplomats say being put on the FATF watchlist could deal a blow to Paki­stan’s economy as it would make it harder for foreign investors and com­panies to do business in the nuclear-armed south Asian nation.  

Ismail said the FATF motion fo­cused on Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistan-based Islamist who India accuses of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai at­tacks that killed 166 people. That sug­gested the US had put forward the motion at India’s behest, he added.  

“The US has consistently expressed our longstanding concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism fi­nance regime,” said a spokesperson from the US embassy in Islamabad.  

The US was also “absolutely not” acting on behalf of India in pressing Pakistan on the issue, the spokesper­son said.  

“In addition to broader systemic concerns, this also concerns Paki­stan’s non-compliance with its com­mitments under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267,” the spokesperson added.  

Resolution 1267 requires all states to freeze the assets of people and or­ganisations on a list established by the resolution, including Saeed and his “Islamic charities”. Washington has designated Saeed a terrorist.  

Saeed has repeatedly denied in­volvement in the Mumbai attacks and says the charitable organisations he founded and controls have no ties with militants.  

On Monday (12), Pakistan an­nounced that it had amended its an­ti-terrorism law to ban militant groups and organisations that are listed as “terrorists” by the United Nations, a move seen to be targeting those charities.  

In December, Pakistan’s govern­ment drew up plans to seize control of Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation charities. (Reuters)