Pakistan to start action plan to curb terror financing before June

Pakistan’s interior minister says the Islamic nation will expedite steps to curb terror financing and money laundering a day after the country avoided ending up on a terror watch list by a global task force. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Pakistan to start action plan to curb terror financing before June

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister of Pakistan Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday, while talking to the media, that Pakistan has made all-out efforts to combat terrorism and will continue doing so. “We are fighting terrorism not to please the US, but for our own benefit,” he said.
Meanwhile, a top Pakistani official told Arab News that Pakistan has not been placed on the Financial Action Task Force's "grey list" during its meeting in Paris in the past few days.
“We will be placed on the grey list in June,” the official said who was representing Pakistan in the meeting in Paris.
He said that Pakistan’s foreign policy has been successful in heading off the motion co-sponsored by the US that was seeking to place Islamabad on the so-called grey list immediately.
The government official also clarified: “There is no chance of placing Pakistan on the blacklist even after June.” He said that Pakistan will be placed on the grey list only if a joint action plan with the FATF is not reached in June or Pakistan fails to cooperate with the task force.
 “The main objection of the FATF members to Pakistan was about implementation of its anti-money laundering laws,” the official said. “We are going to address this concern of the international community too through a cogent mechanism.”
Asif Ezdi, former Pakistan ambassador to Germany, termed the FATF action against Pakistan a political move pushed by the US and some Western countries.
“This is a warning for us,” he told Arab News. “We need to review our certain policies regarding terrorist financing to forcefully present our case at international forums.”
However, he defended Pakistan’s foreign policy, saying: “We are competing against powerful countries of the world with limited resources. Our ambassadors have been doing their best to highlight the achievements of Pakistan in the war against terror at international forums.”
Pakistan was on the FATF watch list from 2012 to 2015.
Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan, renowned economist and former economic adviser to the Ministry of Finance, said the cost of doing business in Pakistan will increase significantly if Pakistan is placed on the FATF grey list in June.
“The implementation of anti-money laundering and terror-financing laws has been strengthened worldwide and this will impact Pakistan negatively if placed on the grey list,” he said.
Pakistan’s credit rating would be downgraded, the transaction cost of doing business will increase and foreign direct investment will get hampered as an immediate impact of being on the grey list, he said.
Khan said Pakistan was in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and also floating bonds in the international market to generate funds while being on the grey list during 2012-15, but “this will not be possible now, given the international situation.”
According to a statement issued by the FATF at the conclusion of its session on Friday, Pakistan does not feature on the list of the countries with strategic deficiencies posing a risk to the international financial system.
The list now features Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tabago, Vanuatu and Tunisia, while Bosnia and Herzegovina have been moved to the white list.
The FATF is a UN-sanctioned inter-governmental body established in July 1989 by a Group of Seven (G-7) Summit in Paris. Its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
The FATF currently comprises 35 members and two regional organizations, representing most major financial centers in all parts of the globe along with observer countries, organizations and associate members.
A senior Pakistani diplomat based in Europe, who is close to the team that represented Pakistan in the recent FATF meetings in Paris, also told Arab News that it was Pakistan's foreign policy that led to the success.
The Europe-based diplomat told Arab News that Pakistan will fully cooperate with the FATF and will work on an action plan between now and June. “We are sure that Pakistan will not be placed on the grey list even in June,” the diplomat asserted.


Pakistan says Afghan peace talks “complex" amid hopes for breakthrough

Updated 2 min 9 sec ago
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Pakistan says Afghan peace talks “complex" amid hopes for breakthrough

  • Taliban deny meeting US special envoy in Islamabad
  • After initial flurry of meetings, dialogue now stalled

ISLAMABAD, KABUL: US-backed peace talks with the Afghan Taliban are part of a "complex process," Pakistan's foreign office spokesman said on Saturday, as insurgents rejected reports they were prepared to resume meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad. 
Since their last meeting in Abu Dhabi in December, dialogue between the US and the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to an 18-year-long war in Afghanistan has largely stalled, particularly over the US insistence that insurgents talk directly with the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with the Kabul government which they see as an illegitimate, foreign-appointed regime, and consider their main adversary to be the US, which invaded the country in 2001 and toppled their rule. 
“It [negotiations] is a complex process. It isn’t a casual thing and cannot be decided in a meeting or two,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal told Arab News on Saturday, calling the peace talks “a sensitive issue that needs to be handled carefully.”
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday to pursue diplomatic efforts to push forward talks with the Afghan Taliban and met with top civilian and military leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“I look forward to concrete progress,” Khalilzad tweeted after his meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister, adding that Pakistan had assured him of support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
U.S. and Afghan officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taliban leaders, who they say are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the table for talks. Pakistani officials deny offering safe havens to the Afghan Taliban and say their influence on the group has waned over the years.
“Pakistan fully supports the process and is playing its role for a negotiated settlement,” the foreign office spokesman said. “Negotiations are underway and nothing can be ruled out at this stage.” 
Khalilzad has held at least three rounds of talks with the Taliban in recent months, with the last round taking place in the United Arab Emirates in December, in the presence of representatives from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
In a statement sent to media, the Afghan Taliban rejected Pakistani media reports that Taliban officials had met with Khalilzad in Islamabad.
“The rumors about a meeting between representatives of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) with American envoy Khalilzad in Islamabad are not true,” Zabihullah Mujahid said. 
A Taliban leader told Reuters peace talks with the US delegation could resume if a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, an exchange of prisoners and lifting a ban on the movement of Taliban leaders were the only issues discussed. 
“The Taliban seem unwilling to revive talks with the US until a schedule of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is given to them,” Taliban affairs expert Rahimullah Yousufzai said. “Pakistan is using its influence, but nothing concrete is achieved so far.”
Indeed, to avoid pressure from Pakistan, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban have said they prefer to hold talks with the U.S. envoy in Qatar where the Taliban have had an office for years.
For now, talks have stalled and there is no clarity on when they will be resumed.  
"Peace efforts have indeed run into some difficulties, perhaps because the initial facilitating and confidence building steps were burdened by over-enthusiastic demands and unrealistic expectations," said Omar Zakhilwal, a former Afghan ambassador to Islamabad. "Suspicions and rivalries among regional stakeholders have also not helped."