Pakistani delegation in Beijing to face FATF review starting Tuesday

In this file photo, the logo of the FATF (the Financial Action Task Force) is seen during a news conference after a plenary session at the OECD Headquarters in Paris on Oct. 18, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Pakistani delegation in Beijing to face FATF review starting Tuesday

  • The country will discuss progress made on 22 action points while claims to have complied with five
  • The three-day talks come ahead of global watchdog’s plenary session in February

KARACHI: Pakistani delegation of experts has reached Beijing to participate in the three-day talks with the Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) starting January 21.
The global money laundering watchdog is holding face-to-face meetings ahead of its plenary session in Paris next month to decide Pakistan’s fate as the South Asian nation makes efforts to avoid blacklisting.
The Pakistani team headed by Minister for Economic Affairs Division, Hammad Azhar, will discuss the progress made on the implementation of 22 action points, out of 27, suggested by the global watchdog while the country claims to have complied with five.
The FATF working group technical team will review Pakistan’s 650-page report filed on January 8, 2020 in response to the 150 questions by the Working Group raised on the country’s initial progress report submitted on December 03, 2019 regarding the implementation of the 27-point action plan.
Pakistan is hopeful to win a ‘largely-compliant’ rating by FATF even if it does not make it out of the grey-list at the moment, which can buy the country more time for full compliance.
“Based on the results we have provided to FATF, we are optimistic. On majority of action items, we are complaint and have made reasonable and significant progress,” Mansoor Hassan Siddiqui, Director General of Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) of Pakistan’s central bank, told Arab News last week.
In October last year, FATF gave Pakistan until February 2020 to make swift progress on the given action plan after observing that the country had only made “limited progress” to curb terrorism financing and money laundering.
Pakistan has amended its laws dealing with anti-money laundering proposing harsh punishment and enhanced financial penalties. Country’s suggested amendments in Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947 (FERA) and Anti Money Laundering Act (AMLA) 2010 were passed by the parliament are in process of being promulgated as law.
Pakistan is also taking steps to safeguard saving schemes against ill-gotten money and terror financing through promulgation of National Savings Schemes (AML-CFT) Rules, 2019.
“Pakistan has made substantial progress and is compliant to large extent but we are not fully compliant so far. In the upcoming plenary meeting that will be held in Paris we need three votes to avoid blacklisting that we have,” Muzamil Aslam, senior economists who is closely monitoring the developments, told Arab News. “We are not going to be blacklisted.”
Amid growing opposition from arch rival India, Pakistan has also enhanced its diplomatic efforts ahead of the next month’s meeting to avoid blacklisting especially the recent visit of Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to United States where he sought US support and hoped that the it would back Pakistan in the upcoming meeting.
“America will be the swing factor. If the US supports Pakistan on the progress we made against terror financing and terrorism, we can immediately move out of the grey-list to white,” Aslam commented.

Lawyer for Daniel Pearl's family faces uphill legal fight

Updated 15 January 2021

Lawyer for Daniel Pearl's family faces uphill legal fight

  • Faisal Siddiqi says overturning even the kidnapping for ransom charge will send Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh back to death row
  • Sheikh, who allegedly lured Pearl to his death, was acquitted in April due to insufficient evidence

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani lawyer for the family of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl faces an uphill battle to overturn the acquittal of a British-born man convicted in the 2002 murder.

That's because the prosecutor in the original case tried all four men — including Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man believed to have lured Pearl to his death — as one, with the same charges against all even though each played a different role.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Faisal Siddiqi, the lawyer for Pearl’s family, said that although the initial prosecution had painted the four defendants with the same brush, “You don’t, because of doubt in one or two or three pieces (of evidence), acquit them all.”

The four men were acquitted in April on the grounds that the initial prosecution’s evidence was insufficient. Siddiqi said his argument now before the Supreme Court, Pakistan's highest, is that conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom and murder deserve separate consideration.

Siddiqi said the Supreme Court hearing to overturn the acquittals will resume Tuesday, and most likely reach its conclusion before the end of January. Both the Pearl family as well as Pakistan’s government separately have appealed the acquittals.

Siddiqi said overturning even the kidnapping for ransom charge would send Sheikh back to death row, where he'd been since his conviction in 2002. He was transferred to a jail in the port city of Karachi in Sindh province, after the Sindh High Court overturned his conviction. The three others charged in Pearl's murder — Fahad Naseem, Adil Sheikh and Salman Saqib — were acquitted on all charges.

Sheikh was sentenced to death, and the other three to life in prison for their roles in Pearl's murder.

Siddiqi said he’s argued that the judges have a duty to both the accused and the victim, and while “no innocent person should be convicted ... no guilty person should be set free.”

The Pearl family’s lawyer said the overwhelming sentiment is “whenever there is a doubt, let us free the accused, never thinking what happened to the victim,” adding that he's asking the judges to “restore the balance between the accused and the victim.”

The acquittal outraged the United States, and last month the US warned it won’t allow Sheikh to escape justice. Acting US Attorney General Jeffery Rosen praised Pakistan for appealing the Sindh court’s order but said if “those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial” in America.

Sheikh remains in jail even as the Sindh High Court last month ordered him freed while the appeal is being heard. Sheikh's lawyer, Mehmood A. Sheikh, no relation, has taken the demand for his client's freedom to the Supreme Court. Until now it has not ruled on the release.

Siddiqi said the prosecutor in Sheikh's original trial was held under considerable duress caused by militant Islamists, who issued threats to the attorney general, and which even forced the court hearing to be held within the confines of the jail.

Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Karachi, where he was kidnapped. Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the “Shoe Bomber” after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

A gruesome video of Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US Consulate. The 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter from Encino, California was abducted Jan. 23, 2002.