Pakistan wary of India's presence on FATF panel

Finance Minister seeks removal of India as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group


Shahbaz Rana March 09, 2019
Finance minister pens letter to FATF president saying Indian presence would undermine impartiality of the process. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has asked the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to remove India from the co-chair of a body that is reviewing progress on implementation of an action plan, in a development that is aimed at frustrating Indian tactics to get Islamabad blacklisted.

Finance Minister Asad Umar has asked the FATF President Marshall Billingslea to appoint any other member as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific's Joint Group, in place of India, to ensure that the FATF review process is fair, unbiased and objective, said the Ministry of Finance on Saturday.

The Joint Group is a sub-body of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of the Asia Pacific Group. Pakistan is a member of the APG and its case is being presented before the FATF by the APG. India's Financial Intelligence Unit's (FIU) director general is the co-chair of the Joint Group.

"India's animosity towards Pakistan is well known and the recent violation of Pakistan's airspace and dropping of bombs inside Pakistani territory is another manifestation of India's hostile attitude," wrote Umar while seeking removal of India.

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Indian aircraft violated Pakistani airspace on February 26, invoking a response from Pakistan the next day that led to shooting down of two Indian jets. Since then the tensions between the two arch-rivals are at their peak.

"Pakistan will also lobby with the friendly countries to get India removed from the co-chair of the Joint Group after New Delhi abused its position in the last FATF meeting," said Umar talking to The Express Tribune. "India submitted a separate dossier against Pakistan that undermined the FATF's neutrality."

He said Pakistan would not boycott the FATF process but will use every available avenue to make sure that India no more politicises the global body. India was at the forefront to get Pakistan blacklisted during the FATF meeting.

Because of India's move, the FATF did not express satisfaction on the implementation of the action plan. The global body that is working to curb terrorism financing and money laundering asked Pakistan to reassess the ranking of banned terrorist outfits.

In his letter, the finance minister referred to a statement regarding efforts for global isolation of Pakistan and Indian call for the blacklisting of Pakistan during the ICRG meeting on February 18, 2019, which demonstrated Indian intentions to hurt Pakistan's economic interests.

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Umar has written the letter about two months before Joint Group would review implementation on over 15 points of the agreed Action Plan. The Joint Group meeting is scheduled to take place in May in Sri Lanka. After that, the FATF Plenary meeting will be held in the United States in June this year.

Pakistan is again anticipating tough Indian opposition during May and June meetings.

"Given the clear Indian motivation to hurt Pakistan's economic interests, Indian presence among the evaluators and as co-chair of the Joint Group would undermine the impartiality and spirit of the 'peer review' process, which lies at the heart of FATF's methodology and objective assessment," he wrote.

The minister said Pakistan firmly believes that India's involvement in the ICRG process will not be fair towards Pakistan and urged that FATF appoint another country as co-chair of the Joint Group instead of India to ensure an impartial assessment of Pakistan's progress in regard to the FATF action plan.

"The ICRG and FATF meetings must not be allowed to be used as a platform by India to make political speeches against Pakistan. Sanctity of the FATF processes requires that separate assessments by individual countries for politically motivated outcomes are not allowed under the ICRG review."

The minister assured the FATF president that "Pakistan remains firm in its commitment to work with FATF/ICRG and the Joint Group and to implement the action plan" and demanded that "FATF must take steps to ensure that the ICRG process is fair, unbiased and impartial towards Pakistan".

In June last year, the FATF had placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.

Earlier, Pakistan raised its concern with the Asia Pacific Group in June last year over India's negative attitude and its intentions to hurt Pakistan's interests but no action was taken in regard to re-composition of the Joint Group. Similar concerns were also raised with FATF Secretariat and ICRG Co-chairs on the sidelines of the FATF Plenary of February 2019, said the finance minister.

Although Pakistan has taken up the issue of Indian attempts to politicise the FATF, it also needs to strengthen the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) and the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) to present a strong case in the next FATF and ICRG meetings.

There is also a need to strengthen the institutional capacity of the FMU by appointing people who have a background in handling the AML and Counter-Terrorism Financing issues.

So far, most of the staff comprises people who have come on deputation from the State Bank of Pakistan. The FMU also needs to be equipped to tackle challenges posed by the flow of black money from the non-banking financial sector.

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