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NSC hopes money laundering watchdog won’t be politicised – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday warned unnamed “few countries” against politicising the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the international money laundering watchdog — and simultaneously directed the government ministries to urgently undertake actions needed to fulfil national commitments.

A meeting of the NSC, presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, undertook a review of the measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to comply with the FATF requirements.

“The committee expressed satisfaction over the objectives achieved so far and directed the ministries concerned to complete the few outstanding actions at the earliest,” the Prime Minister Office said in a statement issued after the meeting.

FATF meeting in Paris will take up report on actions taken to choke funding of Hafiz Saeed

The NSC further “expressed its hope that the FATF will not be politicised by a few countries”.

The review by the country’s top civil-military coordination forum took place ahead of the upcoming FATF plenary meeting in Paris on Feb 18-23, which will take up a report to be submitted by Pakistan on actions taken to choke funding of Hafiz Saeed and the organisations linked with him, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD).

The NSC said that the progress made by Pakistan in fighting money laundering and terrorism financing would be “fully shared with the FATF”.

India and the United States are leading a move at the FATF to put pressure on Pakistan for its alleged failure to comply with the UNSC 1267 sanctions. The intergovernmental body had at its plenary in Buenos Aires held on Nov 1-3 last year asked Pakistan to furnish a compliance report on actions taken against LeT and JuD at the Paris meeting.

A UNSC 1267 sanctions committee’s monitoring team visited Pakistan last month to review the compliance, but analysts fear that the FATF review could be tougher for the country. It is feared that the international body can take some punitive action against Pakistan.

The FATF maintains grey and black lists for identifying countries with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The watchdog does not have the powers to impose sanctions on a country found not meeting the required standards. However, its listing can affect international transactions from the country concerned as those would then become subject to greater scrutiny. This will increase the cost of doing international/cross-border transactions and ultimately higher cost of doing business locally.

Pakistan was last placed on the FATF grey list in February 2012 and stayed on it for three years till February 2015.

Islamabad has also lobbied Moscow on this issue. Foreign Office’s Special Secretary Tasneem Aslam met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov in Moscow on Thursday to brief him on the measures taken by Pakistan to implement its international obligations. She cautioned the Russian official against attempt by some countries to exploit the FATF forum for their political goals.

Afghan allegations

The NSC blamed propaganda by countries hostile to Pakistan for Kabul’s allegations and vowed to continue “positive engagement” with Afghanistan.

“The reaction of the Afghan government was based on misconceptions created by certain foreign elements,” the committee observed.

The bitterness in Kabul’s tone has increased after a spate of recent attacks that left over 140 people dead. A visit by a high-level security delegation comprising Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Masoom Stanekzai was described by both sides as helpful, but it did not lessen Afghan leaders’ acrimony.

President Ashraf Ghani in his latest barrage of accusations against Pakistan said the country was “the headquarters of the Taliban” and demanded decisive action against the militant outfit.

The NSC “expressed the resolve to forge ahead, despite difficulties, with positive engagement with Afghanistan, including the already planned visit of the Pakistani delegation to Kabul on 3rd February 2018, for discussions on Pakistan’s proposed Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity”, the PM Office said.

Noting the progress made with regard to border controls with Afghanistan, the committee asked the Afghan government to support the fencing of the border as it served the interest of both countries.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2018

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