FATF plenary to decide this week on Pakistan’s ‘grey list’ status

This file photo shows a Financial Action Task Force plenary session in progress on Feb. 19, 2020 in Paris. (Photo courtesy: FATF)
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Updated 23 February 2021

FATF plenary to decide this week on Pakistan’s ‘grey list’ status

  • Financial Action Task Force in 2018 placed Pakistan on ‘grey list’ of countries falling short of global money laundering, terror funding controls 
  • Senior Pakistani officials believe the decision to keep Pakistan on the grey list is more ‘political’ than ‘technical’

ISLAMABAD: A global money laundering and terror financing watchdog began its three-day virtual plenary session this week to evaluate steps taken by Pakistan to strengthen oversight of its largely undocumented financial sector and decide if the South Asian nation would be removed from a ‘grey list.’
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. 
In 2018 the FATF placed Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terror financing, and gave it a 27-step action plan to implement, which includes passing new legislation. Pakistan says it has met most of the requirements to be removed from the grey list. 
“Stop money laundering, save lives. The FATF is holding a three day Plenary to discuss key issues in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing,” the watchdog wrote on its Twitter page.

“We hope the FATF plenary will acknowledge and appreciate our actions,” Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Arab News on Sunday. “FATF is a technical body, and we expect it to take a decision based on the merits of our case.”
The global financial watchdog had already acknowledged that Pakistan had completed 21 of the 27 action items, and Chaudhri said his country was “painstakingly” working to make progress on “the remaining six partially addressed items.” 
Pakistani officials also say the forum has been used by various international powers to unjustly target their country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on national security, Dr. Moeed Yusuf, recently told a conference in Islamabad that FATF’s decision to keep Pakistan on its grey list was more “political” than “technical.”
The outcomes of the FATF plenary will be published on Thursday 25 February, at the close of the meeting. 
“The issue isn’t whether it’ll [Pakistan] be blacklisted (it won’t), but more so if it comes off the grey list,” Michael Kugelman at the Wilson Center in Washington wrote on Twitter. “A good chance it’ll stay, given member views that some Action Plan items not complete.”

 

 

Pakistan has long been accused of supporting militant groups for use as proxies to project power in the South Asian region particularly toward its arch-rival India and in Afghanistan. Islamabad vociferously denies such accusations.
But with a minimum of three votes by FATF members needed to avoid the organization’s blacklist, Pakistan has been able to avoid being black listed so far thanks to support from major ally China and other friendly countries including Malaysia and Turkey.
Islamabad and counter-terrorism officials say Pakistan has taken extraordinary steps, including an unprecedented conviction for terrorism financing of Hafiz Saeed, chief of the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group.
The most crucial aspect of compliance with FATF in Pakistan’s case is steps to effectively prevent militant groups from openly operating and raising funds.
The FATF has pushed Pakistan to adequately identify, assess and understand risks associated with militants groups present in the country such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Jamat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad.


Pakistan keeps petrol prices unchanged despite global rate hike

Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan keeps petrol prices unchanged despite global rate hike

  • Oil regulatory body recommended prices of petroleum products be increased to between Rs6 and Rs7 per liter
  • Suggestion rejected by Prime Minister Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday turned down a proposal by the country’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to increase prices of petroleum products, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said in a tweet.
According to a document, also shared by Gill on his Twitter, the OGRA had recommended that the prices of petrol, high speed diesel, kerosene and light diesel be increased by various amounts between Rs6 and Rs7 per liter.
“...Prime Minister Imran Khan did not accept this proposal. There has been no increase in the prices of petroleum products. Despite the continuous rise in the prices of petroleum products in the world market, the prime minister did not allow it,” Gill tweeted.
The new prices would have been effective from March 1. Prices are generally revised every 15 days.
Earlier this month too, the regulatory authority had proposed an increase in petroleum prices but Khan turned the suggestion down. This was a break from continuous price hikes for the last five consecutive fortnights and came despite an increase in global oil prices over the last two weeks.


Malala dreams of a 'true friendship' between Pakistan and India

Updated 28 February 2021

Malala dreams of a 'true friendship' between Pakistan and India

  • Malala was speaking on the last day of during the Jaipur Literature Festival
  • For the first time in six years, the event welcomed Pakistani participants

ISLAMABAD: Nobel Prize winning activist Malala Yousafzai on Sunday said her dream was to see India and Pakistan become "true, good friends."
Ties between Pakistan and India have been shaped by a bitter rivalry and armed conflict since the partition of British-ruled India into Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India in 1947.
Malala was speaking during a session on her latest book, "We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World," on the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which was held online this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Malala Yousafzai speaks to editor and writer Pragya Tiwari during a Jaipur Literature Festival (JIF) on Sunday, February 28, 2021. (Photo courtesy: JIF)

For the first time in six years, the literary event known as the "greatest literary show on Earth" welcomed Pakistani participants, who for its earlier editions faced difficulties in obtaining Indian visas.
"It is my dream to see India and Pakistan become true good friends," Malala said in a session moderated by New Delhi-based editor and writer Pragya Tiwari.
"You are Indian and I am Pakistani and we are completely fine, then why is this hatred created between us?"
"This old philosophy of borders, divisions and divide and conquer ... they just don’t work anymore," she said. "As humans, we all want to live in peace."
The 14th edition of the Indian literary event that normally attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its venue in the 19th-century Diggi Palace Hotel in Jaipur, had among its speakers Douglas Stuart, the winner the 2020 Booker Prize, and prominent American social scientist and linguist Noam Chomsky.
From Pakistan, besides Malala, the JLF sessions also welcomed novelists Moni Mohsin, H.M. Naqvi, and political scientist Ishtiaq Ahmed.


UAE hails Pakistan-India border truce in Kashmir

Updated 28 February 2021

UAE hails Pakistan-India border truce in Kashmir

  • Ceasefire on Kashmir border was settled by the Indian and Pakistani militaries last week
  • UAE urges dialogue between the two South Asian nations to 'establish a lasting peace'

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday welcomed an agreement between the militaries of Pakistan and India to restore ceasefire along their disputed border in Kashmir.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between Pakistan and India as both claim the region in full but rule in part. Tensions increased in August 2019, after New Delhi withdrew the region's autonomy and split it into federally administered territories. In recent months, cross-border firing has become frequent, often killing or maiming people living in the area.

On Thursday, however, the military operations heads of nuclear-armed neighbors said in a joint statement that they had agreed to discuss each other's concerns that could disturb peace and lead to violence along the Line of Control (LoC). The announcement has been seen as restoring a ceasefire agreement from 2003.

"UAE has close historical ties with the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and that it commends the efforts of the two countries to reach this achievement," the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement on Sunday.

"This is an important step towards achieving security, stability and prosperity in the region," it said, adding that "adhering to a permanent ceasefire between the two friendly countries in Kashmir to the benefit of both sides."

The UAE also urged dialogue between the two South Asian countries to "build bridges of confidence and establish a lasting peace."

On Saturday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in series of tweets that Islamabad was ready to resolve all issues with New Delhi through dialogue.

“We have always stood for peace & remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue,” Khan said, as he also the restoration of ceasefire along the LOC.


Kabul welcomes Pakistan's rejection of a future Taliban government — Afghan envoy

Updated 28 February 2021

Kabul welcomes Pakistan's rejection of a future Taliban government — Afghan envoy

  • Pakistan Army spokesperson told reporters last week that ‘Taliban control of Kabul again is not possible’
  • Afghan president’s special envoy says Pakistani leaders promised to openly call for a cease-fire in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s special envoy has welcomed the Pakistani military’s announcement that it would oppose the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.
The Afghan president’s special envoy for Pakistan, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, was on a three-day visit to Islamabad last week as peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have resumed in Qatar to yield a power-sharing arrangement in the country torn by a decades-long conflict.

Afghan president's special envoy for Pakistan, Mohammad Umer Daudzai (first in the left row) meets Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi (center) in Islamabad, Pakistan, on February 26, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Mohammad Umer Daudzai/Twitter)

During the peace talks, which started in September and have been suspended several times since, Afghan government negotiators have been pushing for a permanent cease-fire and are expected to protect the existing system of governance — in place since the ouster of the Taliban by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
As Daudzai was visiting Islamabad, which has been seen as critical to getting the Taliban back to the negotiating table and pushing them to reduce violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan Army spokesperson Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar told reporters on Wednesday that “Taliban control of Kabul again is not possible, and Pakistan will not support any such move.”
Daudzai welcomed the statement as a “very positive development” and one that is not accidental.
“The statement by the Pakistan’s army spokesman is new, which is not by chance. Armies take assessment of the environment in their neighborhood and the Pakistan army has realized that Afghan army, police and the system are strong, and the Taliban cannot topple the system,” he told Arab News in an interview on Friday.
He said that during his trip that wrapped on Friday, Pakistani leaders had told him they would openly call for a cease-fire in Afghanistan instead of the “ambiguous and useless words ‘reduction in violence’” that had been used by international representatives in official talks.
Daudzai told Arab News that ahead of December’s visit of Taliban delegates to Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had assured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that he would take up the cease-fire issue with the group.
“But later we realized that the Taliban did not show flexibility on the issue,” Daudzai said.
The Taliban have been rejecting cease-fire since the beginning of intra-Afghan negotiations.
“If Pakistan says that it does not have control over the Taliban but has some influence, we request Pakistan to take advantage of its influence and convince the Taliban to hold fruitful negotiations,” the Afghan envoy said, as he expressed hope for progress before Ghani’s planned visit before the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan in mid-April.
“We want major progress before the president’s visit to Pakistan so both sides make any important announcement,” he said.


Gunmen kill Islamic cleric, his son, student near Islamabad

Updated 28 February 2021

Gunmen kill Islamic cleric, his son, student near Islamabad

  • No group claimed responsibility for the killing that place in Bhara Kahu neighborhood on Saturday night
  • Cleric was affiliated with Maulana Fazlur Rehman who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government

ISLAMABAD: A trio of gunmen shot and killed a religious cleric, his teenage son and a student on the outskirts of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, police said, amid a rise in militant attacks.
Police officer Shahzad Khan said the killing took place in the Bhara Kahu neighborhood when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was heading toward his car with his 13-year-old son and a seminary student late Saturday night.
He said three assailants fired several shots before fleeing the scene. The cleric, his son and the student received multiple gunshot wounds and died at a hospital.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and Khan said an investigation was underway to ascertain the identity of the assailants and the motive behind the killings.
Ikramur Rehman was affiliated with the party of firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads an 11-party opposition alliance to topple the government.
Militant violence in Pakistan is on the rise. Last week, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were traveling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls who heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable.
In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions.