Pakistan may seek more time to comply with FATF terror norms

NEW DELHI : Pakistan could seek more time from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to comply with its demands to cut finances to terrorist groups, two people familiar with the matter said.

This week, Islamabad is scheduled to submit its replies to queries sent by the global watchdog last month, demanding clarification and data on steps taken by the country to curb terror financing.

One of the two people cited above pointed to a number of news reports and opinion pieces in Pakistani media in recent weeks suggesting Pakistan be given more time to implement FATF’s list of demands. One such piece by Khawaja Khalid Farooq, a retired inspector general of police and former chief of Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority, published on ‘The News’ website said Pakistan had an “evolving counter-terrorism regime" that had to “grapple with deep structural impediments to achieving full compliance."

Farooq noted that it was “not an easy task to dismantle such long established (terrorist) networks."

“Kinetic operations have broken the back of terrorist outfits, and there will definitely be some time lag before these deeply entrenched groups in society can be weeded out. But, time is not on Pakistan’s side where the FATF is concerned," he wrote.

Pakistan “is sure to get a reprieve," said former secretary Kanwal Sibal who pointed to recent moves by the US to restore military-to-military training suspended in 2018. It shows that the US is seeking to restore ties with the entity in Pakistan nurturing the terrorist groups, he said. Previously, it was the US and countries like France that were seen to be putting pressure on Pakistan at the FATF.

FATF last month sent a list of 150 questions demanding more clarity on the steps Pakistan said it had put in place to curb terrorist financing. But with China as its chair, Islamabad could get a breather given that Beijing is seen as Pakistan’s all-weather friend. Pakistan’s progress in choking terrorism financing channels is to be analysed at a FATF meeting in Beijing later this month. It is here that Islamabad is likely to get support from Malaysia and Turkey for a respite till June to put its house in order, the second person said.

The FATF’s October plenary meeting in Paris had given Pakistan time till February to comply with 27 benchmarks set by the body in June 2018 and agreed to by Pakistan to escape being penalized —i.e. being put on the FATF’s blacklist. Blacklisting would put Pakistan in the company of Iran and North Korea. Though the move doesn’t amount to international sanctions, countries will be wary of investing in Pakistan knowing that it is not a jurisdiction seen as compliant with FATF rules. Just prior to the FATF’s October meeting, an assessment by the FATF’s Asia Pacific Group found Pakistan fully compliant only on one out of 40 benchmarks set by the FATF in June 2018 when Pakistan was first put on the ‘gray list’. It was found to be non-compliant on 32 out of 40 parameters.

India, on its part, will be looking toward a second FATF meet in February in Paris where New Delhi is expected to work through friendly countries like France to keep up pressure on Pakistan to cut off funding to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its front organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity. The LeT is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in which 166 people were killed while the JuD’s network includes hundreds of seminaries and schools.

Pakistan may seek more time to comply with FATF terror norms

Islamabad will this week submit responses to FATF’s queries on steps it has taken to curb terror funding


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