Pakistan avoids terror financing blacklist for now

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) President Xiangmin Liu gestures as he speaks during a media conference at the OECD headquarters in Paris. (AP)
Updated 18 October 2019

Pakistan avoids terror financing blacklist for now

  • FATF’s decision offers a reprieve to PM Imran Khan as he works to attract foreign investment and loans
  • The agency’s assessment expresses “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan” to stop terrorism financing

PARIS: An international monitoring agency has given Pakistan four months to prove it is fighting terrorism financing and money laundering — or it could be put on a damaging global blacklist.
The Financial Action Task Force also threatened Iran, which is already blacklisted, with even tougher restrictions on its international financial activity.
Pakistan’s government on Friday hailed the FATF’s decision, which offers a reprieve to Prime Minister Imran Khan as he works to shore up his country’s faltering economy and attract foreign investment and loans.
“Thank God, we have been successful,” Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told The Associated Press.
But the agency’s assessment remained grim, expressing “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan” to stop terrorism financing.
In a statement after meetings this week at its Paris headquarters, the FATF said Pakistan has addressed only five of 27 measures required to avoid being blacklisted.
If Pakistan doesn’t act by February, FATF president Xiangmin Lui said the agency could put the country on its blacklist, which currently includes only Iran and North Korea.
Experts say the move means every international financial transaction with Pakistan will be closely scrutinized and doing business in Pakistan will become costly and cumbersome. International agencies could place restrictions on lending money to Pakistan, including key creditors such as the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
“Pakistan has not done enough,” Xiangmin told a news conference.
Pakistan should do more to track money transfers and investigate and prosecute terrorism financiers, among other steps, the FATF said.
Qureshi insisted that Pakistan has “taken maximum steps against terror financing.”
“We will continue to take all the required steps, and all conspiracies against us have failed,” he told The AP.
Meanwhile, the watchdog expressed “disappointment” that Iran isn’t taking the necessary steps to be removed from the blacklist, and said it’s asking all member countries to tighten scrutiny of any financial transactions involving Iran.
Virtual currencies such as bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra are also prompting concern from the FATF, which warned of “new risks” from such products. It said they’re being “closely monitored” to ensure they’re not used to finance terrorism or launder money.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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