Bid to put Pakistan on a global terror watch-list fails

ICMD, Feb 21, 2018 The United States (US) has failed to find partners in its bid to put Pakistan on the global terror financing watch-list during an ongoing conference in Paris. The six-day conference of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) continues in the French capital. The meeting was due to vote on a US motion to put Pakistan on the global terror watch-list. But, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said early on Wednesday that the US has failed in its bid against Pakistan. In a tweet, Asif has said that Pakistan’s efforts have paid off, and the Paris conference has deferred voting for three months. Asif also says that the Financial Action Task Force has asked Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering to submit another report in June 2018. Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Miftah Ismail has been in Paris to plead Pakistan’s case at the ongoing session. Ismail left for Paris at the weekend to attend the FATF meetings, said officials of the Finance Ministry. The decision to send the adviser was taken abruptly. According to the original plan, the Director General Financial Monitoring Unit, a joint secretary-level official of the Ministry of Finance and representatives from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) were to represent the country. Just a day before his departure for France, the adviser had returned from a week-long visit of Europe, where he had gone to convince the FATF member countries about the actions that Islamabad has taken to remain compliant with global anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regime. The FATF is holding six-day-long meetings to discuss issues ‘to protect the integrity of the global financial system and contribute to safety and security’. The meetings involve more than 700 delegates from the 203 jurisdictions of the FATF Global Network, as well as the UN, IMF, World Bank and other partners. The plenary meetings will take place from February 21 to 23 and will focus on counter-terrorism financing and proliferation financing. The US and the UK had moved the motion to place Pakistan on the FATF terrorist-financing watchlist. France and Germany were co-sponsoring the move. If the FATF adopts the resolution, the country can again be placed on the grey list of jurisdictions with deficient anti-money laundering regimes after a gap of three years. Pakistan suspects Indian role behind the US-sponsored resolution as Ismail recently lamented that the FATA was used for political purposes. According to the financial sector experts, any move to place Pakistan on the watchlist would enhance scrutiny level of the financial transactions that the country’s banking sector would undertake with the rest of the world. This will increase the cost of opening letter of credits (LC) for trade purposes. The negative decision by FATF will have the force to affect the international credit ratings, which will in turn increase cost of borrowings for the government. At present, the 11 jurisdictions are on the high risk and monitoring list of the FATF, which include North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, etc. Pakistan has remained on the FATF grey list from 2009 to 2015. While delisting the country in February 2015, the FATF had noted that Pakistan made significant progress in improving its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime and also established the legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF had identified in June 2010. However, Pakistan kept working with the Asia Pacific Group to address the full range of issues identified in its mutual evaluation report, in particular, fully implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1267. But activities of Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) have created problems for the government, according to Finance Ministry officials. This month, Pakistan also promulgated a Presidential Ordinance to ensure full compliance with the FATF requirements. Now the UN-proscribed organisations and individuals will be automatically proscribed in Pakistan.

Pakistan Army in Saudi: Govt refuses to share ‘details’ with Senate

ICMD, Feb 19, 2018 Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir on Monday refused to divulge the ‘operational details’ of deployment of Pakistan Army troops in Saudi Arabia as he was summoned by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani for a briefing to the Upper House on the issue. The refusal by the defence minister prompted Rabbani to threaten him with ‘contempt of parliament’ proceedings. “Why don’t we proceed against you and the prime minister over contempt of parliament?” Rabbani asked Dastagir after the minister revealed that it was Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who green-lighted the deployment. Dastagir even turned down a proposal floated by Rabbani for an in-camera session, saying, “Even in an in-camera session, we’d request not to be asked questions on the exact nature of deployment as this is an issue relating to the national security and that of the troops.” The Senate chairman censured Dastagir for not taking the House into confidence even though both the defence minister and the prime minister had knowledge of the decision for several months. “The parliament found out [about the deployment] through a press release,” Rabbani said. “The executive has itself rubbed parliament’s nose in the dirt.” However, the defence minister argued that despite the decision of sending troops to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan remained ‘neutral’ in line with a unanimous resolution passed by a joint sitting of parliament in 2015 stating that Islamabad will not become party to any war in the Middle East or any Arab state. Disclosing the size of the deployment for the first time since the decision was announced, Dastagir said a total of 1,000 Pakistani troops were being sent to the Kingdom on a ‘training mission’. He said 1,600 Pakistani soldiers were already stationed in Saudi Arabia. The defence minister attempted to assure Senate that the troops will not be deployed outside the Kingdom’s territory. Rabbani expressed a lack of confidence in the assurance, saying this information was already known. “The House is not satisfied with your response,” he told Dastagir. Senator Farhatullah Babar stressed that all concerns remain despite the defence minister’s statement. “Has a decision been taken to deploy troops at the border of [the southern Saudi province of] Sharura,” he asked. “Don’t ask where in Saudi Arabia the troops will be deployed,” the minister responded. “Don’t give us a lollipop … we are not kids,” Rabbani told the defence minister, adding that he (the minister) could not hide any information from parliament. The minister said that Pakistan shared long-lasting and strong terms with Saudi Arabia. He said that the deputation was a continuation of the ongoing support and within the confines of joint parliamentary resolution of April 2015. “The training of Saudi forces is governed by 1982 bilateral protocol regarding the deployment of Pakistan’s armed forces personnel,” the minister said, adding that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also hold joint defence exercises regularly. Expressing displeasure with the ‘incomplete’ briefing, Rabbani asked the minister to clarify the matter and answer concerns of the senators with regard to dispatching the troops to Saudi Arabia. Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan said that he was not opposing military relations with Saudi Arabia, but asked whether the ministry contemplated what influence this action would have on neighbouring states, particularly Iran. Aitzaz said that Saudi Arabia had a ‘hostile’ stance towards Iran and any action in this regard could cause tensions to escalate between Islamabad and Tehran. The defence minister was summoned by the House for a briefing after certain senators had expressed concerns over the recent statement given by the army. “In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission,” Pakistan Army’s media cell had stated last week. The announcement had come after Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki reportedly discussed ‘regional security situation’ with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at a meeting held at the GHQ. The latter had also recently met Crown Prince Salman and Saudi military commanders during a three-day visit to the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has been demanding the deployment of Pakistani troops since the start of the Yemen conflict in 2015. -- DT