US trying to ‘embarrass’ Pakistan with terror financing list: Minister

Miftah Ismail (File/Reuters)
Updated 27 February 2018

US trying to ‘embarrass’ Pakistan with terror financing list: Minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s de facto finance minister, Miftah Ismail, has brushed off concerns that economic growth will suffer because of the country’s re-inclusion on a terrorist financing watch list, and lashed out against the US for seeking to “embarrass” his nation.
Washington last week persuaded member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan back on the “grey list” of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls. Pakistan was on the list for three years, until 2015.
The diplomatic setback has sparked anger in Islamabad against the US, which championed the motion against Pakistan at the FATF meeting in Paris.
It represented another blow to the worsening relationship between the uneasy allies, who have long differed on how to combat militants waging war in Afghanistan.
Ismail, officially the adviser on finance, revenue and economic affairs to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, led Pakistan’s negotiations in Paris. He told Reuters that Washington did not seem genuinely eager to see Pakistan boost its terrorist financing regulations and was instead bent on humiliating the country.
“If the Americans were interested in working with us and improving our CTF (counter-terrorist financing) regulations, they would have taken the offer I was making them,” Ismail said. “But their idea was just to embarrass Pakistan.”
Ismail said that he urged the US to allow Pakistan until June to fix any outstanding CTF issues and ceded ground in negotiations to strike a deal, but that the US was determined to see Pakistan suffer.
US officials say Pakistan remains weak on terrorist financing prosecutions and has not done enough to combat money-raising capabilities of charities controlled by Hafiz Saeed, whom the US has designated a terrorist.
In the run up to the FATF meeting, Pakistan sought to gain favor by seizing control of parts of Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) charities, which the US terms "terrorist fronts" for militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Ismail said Pakistan's law-enforcement shortcomings are often confused for lack of desire, especially at provincial level, where police officers are poorly trained when it comes to terrorist financing legislation.
“The will is there,” he added.
Pakistan hopes to be removed from the grey list in six to 12 months from June, when it will be officially placed on the watch list, Ismail added.
Despite rising growth on the back of improving security and China’s vast infrastructure investment, Pakistan’s economy has come under renewed stress during the past year.
Its foreign currency reserves are shrinking and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Pakistan's macroeconomic stability is weakening amid a ballooning current account deficit and a widening fiscal deficit.
Ismail said he did not foresee the FATF decision acting as a brake on Pakistan’s economy, which, with growth above 5 percent, is expanding at its fastest pace in a decade.
“I would rather not be in the list, but I don’t think it will hurt” economic growth, Ismail said, adding that ordinary Pakistanis would not see any impact from the FATF move.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.