New Delhi: With all-weather friend China heading the FATF, and backed by two other “brotherly countries” of Malaysia and Turkey, Pakistan has bought itself four months time from the global watchdog on terror financing to eliminate the twin evils of terror financing and money laundering – a tall task by all counts.
Already in the grey list, Pakistan was set to have been downgraded to black for having failed in its compliance of the measures to tackle terror financing and money laundering, but was bailed out by its friends, and its strong lobbying with the US.
The extra time was given to Pakistan at the FATF Week, which was held in Paris from Sunday to Wednesday, where Pakistan presented its compliance report on the measures sought by it by the Financial Action Task Force.
According to Pakistani media reports, at the meeting on Tuesday, India recommended that Pakistan be downgraded to the black list for allowing UN proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed to withdraw funds from his frozen accounts.
Concerns were also raised about the tax amnesty scheme launched by the Pakistan government in May this year to regularise unaccounted assets.
However, based on the outright support extended by Turkey, China and Malaysia, the FATF decided not to include Pakistan on the black list and give it more time to implement the remaining measures.
According to reports, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Saudi Arabia too supported Pakistan at the FATF meeting. Pakistan PM Imran Khan has been making several visits to Riyadh, and is currently on a visit there.
The FATF’s kindness comes despite the Asia Pacific Group sub group report being severely critical of Islamabad for its low compliance on measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist funding. The APG had recommended a downgrade for Pakistan.
“Imran Khan has played his cards well with the Americans. I don’t think Pakistan will dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, and anyway they have the three votes (China, Malaysia, and Turkey) that will carry them through again,” former diplomat G Parthasarathy told IANS.
According to the FATF charter, the support of at least three countries is required to not blacklist a country.
“But the pressure has to be kept on Pakistan, and they have to be hauled up regularly before the world. People should not forget they are a state sponsor of terrorism, and nothing has changed,” said Parthasarathy, a former Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad.
He said that UN proscribed Maulana Masood Azhar, founder and leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group that was behind the Pulwama, Uri and Pathankot terror attacks, remains in Pakistan, though he is learnt to be in poor health, and also Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamat-ud-Dawah founder Hafiz Saeed. “Though these guys are getting old, their terror infrastructure remains,” said the former envoy.
Security expert and Pakistan watcher Jai Kumar Verma feels that if Pakistan is unable to curb its money laundering and terrorist financing by February 2020, it could be pushed to the black list.
In August, PM Imran Khan had formed a task force, headed by Minister for Economic Affairs Division Hammad Azhar, to look into the FATF’s concerns. The Pakistani team to Paris was headed by Azhar where he presented his country’s compliance report and pleaded Islamabad’s case before the inter-governmental body.
Ahead of the FATF meeting, Pakistan also arrested four LeT/Jamat-ud- Dawah terrorists – largely considered as a cosmetic move.
Alice Wells, head of the US State Department’s South and Central Asian Bureau, had welcomed the arrests in a tweet, but said that Pakistan, for its own future, “must prevent militant groups from operating on its soil”.
“We welcome news that Pakistan arrested 4 #LeT leaders. The victims of LeT’s vicious attacks deserve to see these individuals prosecuted now, along with LeT leader Hafiz Saeed,” she had tweeted.
“Pakistan wants to project it as if they are doing somethingaBut Pakistan has made carrying out terrorist activities in India and Afghanistan as part of its foreign policy,” said Verma.
One way of financing terrorist activities is through channelling drug money.
Around 40 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan passes through into neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan where it is processed into heroin in mobile drug processing units.
“The best part about drug trafficking is that you get hard cash from drugs for terrorist activities. Terrorists have to be paid in hard cash, you cannot pay in white money,” said Verma.