By S Rajagopalan
23 February 2018
Three countries — China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — joined hands in a concerted bid to block a US-led move to place Pakistan on an international terror-financing watch list on Tuesday, but Washington was reported to be engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to have its way in a fresh vote on Thursday.
“Saudi Arabia’s move on behalf of Pakistan came just days after Islamabad said it would send more than 1,000 troops to the Gulf kingdom, which has expanded its military posture in the region since its 2015 intervention in Yemen’s civil war,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Following the Saudi action in joining China and Turkey, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja M Asif had claimed late on Tuesday that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) proposed a three-month pause because of the absence of consensus over the US-led move to put Islamabad on the watch list.
But the US State Department dismissed the claim, with spokesperson Heather Nauert telling reporters: “The final decision on that was due later this week, so I don’t want to get ahead of what that final decision would be.” With the focus on countries not doing enough to crack down on terrorist financing, the FATF is taking a close look at Pakistan, Nauert said, adding: “They’ll be making an announcement sometime soon.”
Exasperated with Pakistan’s ways, the Trump administration, which has already frozen nearly $2 billion in security aid to Islamabad until it takes decisive action against terrorist sanctuaries on its soil, is reportedly working on its otherwise close ally Saudi Arabia to change its stand vis-à-vis Pakistan. The FATF is having meetings throughout this week to discuss important issues to protect the integrity of the global financial system and contribute to safety and security. Over 700 delegates from the 203 jurisdictions of the FATF Global Network, as well as the UN, IMF, World Bank and other partners are attending the sessions.
The FATF meetings will conclude on Friday after a three-day plenary session. The thrust of the meetings is to discuss a new counter-terrorist financing operational plan that will set out the actions the FATF will be taking in response to the changing terrorist financing threats. It will come up with “a forward looking and comprehensive plan of action for FATF in tackling terrorist financing, which continues to be the FATF’s top priority”.
“If U.S. lobbying is successful and the task force does end up adding Pakistan to its list of countries deemed “high risk” for doing too little to curb terror financing, banks, other lenders.