Islamabad says New Delhi’s presence among the evaluators will undermine impartiality and spirit of the review process

Finance Minister Asad Umar has asked Financial Action Task Force (FATF) President Marshall Billingslea to appoint any other member as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group in place of India to ensure that the review process is fair, unbiased and objective.

In a letter to the FATF president, the minister said India’s animosity towards Pakistan is well known. The recent violation of Pakistan’s airspace and dropping of bombs inside its territory is another manifestation of New Delhi’s hostile attitude towards Islamabad, it added.

The finance minister referred to a statement of the Indian finance minister regarding efforts for global isolation of Pakistan and the Indian call for blacklisting of Pakistan during the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) meeting on February 18, 2019, which demonstrated Indian intentions to hurt Pakistan’s economic interests.

The minister stated that given the clear motivation of New Delhi to hurt Islamabad’s economic interests, Indian presence among the evaluators and as co-chair of the joint group will undermine the impartiality and spirit of the peer review process, which lies at the heart of FATF’s methodology and objective assessment. “We firmly believe that India’s involvement in the ICRG process will not be fair towards Pakistan,” he said in the letter.

The finance minister urged Marshall Billingslea to appoint another country as co-chair of the joint group instead of India to ensure an impartial assessment of Pakistan’s progress with 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. The sanctity of FATF processes require that separate assessments by individual countries for politically motivated outcomes are not allowed under the ICRG review,” he said.

“Pakistan remains firm in its commitment to work with FATF/ICRG and the Joint Group and to implement the Action Plan and demands that FATF must take steps to ensure that the ICRG process is fair, unbiased and impartial towards Pakistan,” the minister wrote to the FATF president.

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.

Reports emerged last month that India was pressing for Pakistan to be kept on a terrorism financing watchlist following an attack in Held Kashmir.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body created to counter terrorism financing and money laundering, met in Paris in February as Pakistan hoped to get off a ‘grey list’ of nations with inadequate controls over such activities.

Two Indian government officials dealing with the issue had revealed that new information had been provided to the FATF relating to Pakistan after the car bombing in the Pulwama district of occupied valley in which 40 paramilitary police were killed.

Pakistan has been on the grey list since June last year. While there are no direct legal implications from being on the list, it brings extra scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions that can chill trade and investment and increase transaction costs, experts say.

The FATF last month said that Pakistan had taken steps towards improving its anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism regime, however it needed to take more steps to address its strategic deficiencies. “Since June 2018, when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies, Pakistan has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including by operationalising the integrated database for its currency declaration regime,” an FATF statement issued on February 23 had said. “Pakistan has revised its TF risk assessment; however, it does not demonstrate a proper understanding of the TF risks posed by Da’esh, Al-Qaeda, JuD, FiF, LeT, JeM, Haqqani Network, and persons affiliated with the Taliban,” the statement had maintained.