Pakistan criticizes continued inclusion on financial watchdog’s gray list

Pakistan has denounced the decision of an international money watchdog to keep the country on its gray list, insisting that there is no justification for the decision.

“We have to decide whether the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) is a technical or political forum (one). We have to see whether or not the forum is used for political purposes,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. in a statement.

Announcing the decision on Friday, FATF chief Marcus Pleyer said Pakistan had made “significant” progress on 26 points of the 27-point watchdog action plan for the South Asian country.

However, he added that a “key issue” of the action plan has yet to be resolved, namely the investigation and prosecution of senior leaders of UN-designated terrorist groups.

He was referring to militant groups such as Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which have already been banned by the UN and Pakistan.

But Qureshi argued that the watchdog himself “acknowledged that 26 out of 27 points have been implemented, while progress has also been made on the remaining point.”

“Therefore, in my opinion, there is no more room to keep Pakistan on the gray list,” he added.

Qureshi has pointed the finger at “certain powers” who want Pakistan to remain on the gray list, a slightly veiled reference to the United States, which some analysts say is using its influence on the money laundering watchdog of 36 countries as a lever to put pressure on Islamabad, mainly on the issue of neighboring Afghanistan.

The United States was among the countries that voted to keep Pakistan on the gray list.

“Anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering measures are in Pakistan’s own interests, which we will continue to take,” FM Qureshi said.

Islamabad has been on the radar of the global money laundering watchdog since June 2018, when it was graylisted for terrorism financing and money laundering risks after a system assessment. financial and security mechanism of the country.

The South Asian nuclear nation has since escaped being blacklisted for watchdog financial crimes three times with backing from Turkey, China and Malaysia.

According to the FATF charter, a country must have the support of at least three member states to avoid being blacklisted.

In recent years, Islamabad has taken important steps under this plan, including strict controls on opening new bank accounts and banning foreign currency transactions without a national tax number, and currency changes of up to ‘to $ 500 on the open market without proper identification.

In addition, Pakistan has also outlawed several militant groups and seized their assets, including JuD and JeM – groups accused of several terrorist attacks such as the deadly Mumbai attacks in 2009, killing more than 150 people.

Last year, a counterterrorism court sentenced Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the head of the JuD, to 11 years in prison in two terrorism financing cases – a development widely seen as an attempt to woo members of the watchdog.

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