US pushes motion to put Pakistan on global terrorist-financing watchlist
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The United States has put forward a motion to place Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watchlist with an anti-money-laundering monitoring group, according to a senior Pakistani official.
Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avert being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with terrorist financing regulations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a measure that officials fear could hurt its economy.
A meeting of FATF member states is due to take place next week in Paris, where the organization could adopt the motion on Pakistan. The FATF, an intergovernmental body based in Paris, sets global standards for fighting illicit finance.
Adviser to Prime Minister on finance Miftah Ismail, told Reuters that the United States and Britain put forward the motion several weeks ago, and later persuaded France and Germany to co-sponsor it.
“We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn,” Ismail said, speaking by telephone from Europe.
“We are also quite hopeful that even if the US did not withdraw the nomination that we will prevail and not be put on the watchlist.”
Pakistan had been on the FATF watchlist from 2012 to 2015.
Pakistani officials and Western diplomats say that being put on the FATF watchlist could deal a blow to Pakistan’s economy as it would make it harder for foreign investors and companies to do business in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.
“If you’re put on a terror watchlist, you’re made to go through all the (extra) scrutiny,” Pakistan’s former counterterrorism chief, Khawaja Khalid Farooq, told Reuters. “It can hurt the economy very badly.”
Officials also fear it would be harder and more expensive for Pakistan to borrow money from international debt markets if it was put on the FATF monitoring list.
On Monday, Pakistan announced it had amended its anti-terrorism law to ban militant groups and organizations that are listed as “terrorists” by the United Nations, a move seen to be targeting those charities.
Pakistan’s attorney general, Ashtar Ausaf, told Reuters the law changes approved by the country’s president were meant to reflect obligations under the UN Security Council charter.
“We have to march with the changing times,” Ausaf said, adding that the new laws would enable the government to track fundraising activities of all the UN-proscribed groups and take punitive action such as freezing their assets.