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Pakistan tries to politicise FATF ahead of Oct 21-23 meet

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Pakistan tries to politicise FATF ahead of Oct 21-23 meet 2

Pakistan is trying to politicise Financial Action Task Force (FATF) ahead of October meet of the group to soften US pressure on Islamabad.

Islamabad has hired a US- based lobbying firm Linden Strategies to lobby with the Trump administration, ET has learnt.

The lobbying firm describes itself as a “government relations and business development firm providing strategic analysis and advisory to domestic and international clients, including sovereign nations.”

The firm’s specialises is in government relations, strategic communication, business advisory and political consulting, according to its website. Earlier, Pakistan used to hire lobbying firms in USA to lobby on the “Kashmir” issue.

FATF is expected to take a decision on whether Pakistan should be excluded from its ‘grey list’ at its plenary meeting, scheduled to be held virtually on October 21-23, on the basis of a review of Pakistan’s performance in meeting global commitments and standards on fight against money laundering and terror financing (ML&TF). It is unlikely though that Pakistan will be moved out of Grey List.

In February, the FATF had given Pakistan a four-month grace period to complete its 27-point action plan against ML&TF committed to the international community. The FATF plenary was earlier scheduled in June but was postponed due to Covid-19.

However, Pakistan’s exit from the grey list is easier said than done despite its “crackdown” on terrorists present in its territory, said people aware of the matter. The apparent U-turn on Dawood Ibrahim may not help its case, they said.

In August, Dawood Ibrahim was among 89 people who figured in a list published as a statutory regulatory order (SRO) by Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry to escape blacklisting by the FATF. In the SRO dated August 18, the ministry reproduced the terror listing of Ibrahim by the United Nations Security Council.

However, a statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry in August brushed aside media reports which claimed that the country had “admitted to the presence of certain listed individuals on its territory” as “baseless and misleading”.

Besides, Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar’s operations head and 26/11 accused Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar also figure on the list. All designated terrorists on the list will have no direct access to funds, be able to enter or transit through Pakistan or be able to procure weapons.

The FATF had placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018. China, Pakistan’s all-weather ally, prevented it from being blacklisted by the FATF for the past two years, with support from Turkey and Malaysia. Three votes are necessary at the FATF meet to prevent blacklisting.

China no longer holds a rotating FATF presidency, as Marcus Pleyer of Germany assumed the position of president on July 1. He succeeded Xiangmin Liu of China.

Pakistan has also sought China’s support for being dropped from the FATF grey list given the state of its economy. Its presence in the List makes it difficult for the country to get financial aid from the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union. Saudi Arabia’s decision to end a loan and associated oil supply has worsened Pakistan’s situation, said experts tracking Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan’s performance will also be under scrutiny at the virtual meetings later this month on enforcement against targeted financial sanctions (TFS) violations including administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases and whether facilities and services owned or controlled by designated person were deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources, according to those in the know.

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