Pakistan could face financial sanctions from FATF, say analysts

General view with Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, July 13, 2008. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 February 2018

Pakistan could face financial sanctions from FATF, say analysts

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may be at risk of being placed back on the international terror-financing watch list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
FATF began its six-day plenary meeting in Paris on Sunday to discuss the safety and security of the global financial system.
The resolution to place Pakistan on FATF’s list is spearheaded by the US, with the support of Britain, France and Germany. The US has reportedly had concerns about the depth of Pakistan’s commitment to tackling money laundering and terror financing.
US-Pakistan relations hit a new low last year when Washington — unveiling its new strategy for Afghanistan — accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting terrorists.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif is currently visiting Moscow on a four-day tour, at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Asif will likely raise Islamabad’s concerns about the FATF in an attempt to muster Russian support against the four countries leading the attempt to include Pakistan on the watch list.
Last year, FATF’s International Coopera­tion Review Group resolved to scrutinize Pakistan’s apparent support of proscribed groups operating on its soil and requested a report on the country’s efforts to combat terror financing ahead of the its next sessions. The global intergovernmental organization meets three times a year.
“This time (the effects) would be even greater because there are other pressures on Pakistan,” political commentator and retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood told Arab News, speculating on what might happen should Pakistan be included on the watch list again.
“Pakistan’s balance-of-payment position is very adverse at the moment and internal stability is not good. It will have a greater impact than it had last time,” he continued, urging the government to take “appropriate measures” to combat the imminent danger of sanctions.
Pakistan spent five years on FATF’s watch list from 2010, before its compliance with international standards saw it removed from the list.
Masood said that if financial restrictions are imposed on Pakistan, it would be as a result of the country’s “foreign policy and internal situation,” which he said the government needs to review and revise to avoid risking Pakistan’s economic stability and further tainting the country’s international image.
Former diplomat Javed Hafiz, however, believes “it’s an institutional, not a policy, problem.”
Hafiz told Arab News, “It’s a pressure tactic to force Pakistan to do more than it’s already doing. It’s already in our national action plan not to allow banned organizations (or individuals) to operate, even under a new name, and to freeze their assets.”
Senior economist Dr. Syed Nazre Hyder described the potential impact of Pakistan’s inclusion on the watch list — should it happen — as “near lethal.” He pointed out that the cost to banks’ customers will rise, investors in the international capital market would request a much higher rate of return from Pakistan, and multilateral financing organizations would add risk premiums on any money borrowed.
Furthermore, financial experts fear the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may reject any loan extension Pakistan might request as a bailout to curb its widening trade deficit, or offer a new deal with stricter guidelines dictated by the US and the European Union.
“Pakistan will need a loan to pay off its debt burden,” Hyder told Arab News. “If it’s included on the list, the country will face a serious challenge sourcing funds for repayment leading to the possibility of default. This would cripple Pakistan economically.”
Dr. Ashfaq Hasan Khan, a former adviser to the Ministry of Finance, believes Pakistan’s inclusion on the FATF’s list may not have the expected impact, however.
“Pakistan has done a lot as far as anti-money laundering is concerned. It’s taken additional steps last week to further strengthen (that section of law),” said Khan, referring to the government’s seize, freeze, and control operation against Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its charity wing, the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).
Both JuD and FIF are linked to Hafiz Saeed, whom India accuses of masterminding the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Saeed has a $10 million bounty on his head.
Khan believes the impact on Pakistan’s relations with the international financial market would be insignificant. The FATF, he pointed out, “deals with terror financing and money laundering, against which we have taken action.”
Khan said the present government would not allow the US “to pull Pakistan’s strings financially.”
India has also lobbied for Pakistan’s inclusion on the FATF list. But Islamabad is banking heavily on support from China, Russia, Turkey, and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Masood, for one, thinks Pakistan’s need for Chinese support is worrying.
“We are relying far too heavily on China. I don’t think even China likes that,” he said, adding that Pakistan needs to focus on internal stability before it can successfully resist international pressure, and that it should use its relationship with China to gain tangible benefits, rather than “frittering it away to counter negative pressure from the US, India and others.”

Afghan writer’s book of poems gives voice to refugees stranded in Indonesia

Updated 28 February 2020

Afghan writer’s book of poems gives voice to refugees stranded in Indonesia

  • The book is titled after the red ribbon Haidari untied from his dead sister’s hair while fleeing an attack on his village

JAKARTA: An Afghan writer who fled war to Indonesia six years ago has penned a book of poems giving voice to the plight of his fellow refugees.

“The Red Ribbon,” by Abdul Samad Haidari, tells the story of asylum-seekers stranded in Indonesia and their protracted wait for resettlement to a third country.

Launched on Sunday, the book is titled after the red ribbon Haidari untied from his dead sister’s hair while fleeing an attack on his village, Dahmarda, in the Arghandab district of Zabul province.

Having worked as a freelance journalist in his country, Haidari, of Hazara ethnicity, told Arab News he had sought solace in poetry when he realized there was little else he could do while a refugee in Indonesia.

He described the book’s publication as a miracle, given the challenges and limitations he has faced.

“It took me more than five years to complete it, with persistence, faith, sweat, tears, and an empty stomach in a humid room some 60 km away from Jakarta, in a remote village,” he said during a launch event at a cultural center in Jakarta.

The poems chronicle Haidari’s life and the circumstances on the night he fled his home to Indonesia, where he has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness and separation.

One of his verses, titled “Dedication to evergreen Indonesia,” is a tribute to the country which for the past seven years has given him shelter. Indonesia’s arms were “warmer than the arms of those who had thrown me out of my hometown,” the poem reads.

Writer and author Carissa Finneren described the poems as “honest and raw,” while poet Ruby Astari told Arab News that she hoped Haidari would become the voice of fellow Afghan refugees and those who were oppressed.

Haidari arrived in Indonesia in 2014 and in 2016 was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which makes him eligible for resettlement to a third country.

He is one of some 14,000 refugees — more than half of them from Afghanistan — registered with the UNHCR office in Indonesia, who have been waiting for years to be resettled.

Indonesia acts as a transit country, as it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Its national laws bar refugees and asylum seekers from working. Some of them have access to basic education and healthcare, although very limited.

Their wait has been stretched further as countries that are party to the convention have reduced their refugee intake. Australia, which used to be the main destination for asylum seekers transiting in Indonesia, froze its resettlement program on July 1, 2014.

“The book is a much-needed manifestation of what refugees bring to the world when they are allowed to, encouraged to, given space and opportunities to do so,” said Ann Mayman, UNHCR representative in Indonesia.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Indonesia, Faizullah Zaki Ibrahimi, said the poems made readers feel the pain of a generation that had suffered due to Afghanistan’s long and deadly conflict.

A new hope, the ambassador said, was sparked by a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, which has been in place since Saturday, ahead of an expected peace agreement between the US and the Taliban. If extended, it could eventually lead to peaceful dialogue and eliminate the main cause of Afghans seeking refuge around the world, the envoy added.

“We hope that someday peace comes back to Afghanistan and democracy thrives.”