NEW DELHI :
France said on Friday it will “objectively evaluate, without any concession," Pakistan’s compliance of international guidelines on terror financing at a meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris next month.
The statement follows indications that the international community could let Pakistan off the hook with active support from China and tactical support from some Western countries.
According to a person familiar with the development on the French side, an FATF’s meeting held in Beijing this week “analysed Pakistan’s situation from a technical point of view".
“A report on the actions undertaken by Pakistan for implementing its plan of action will be presented in February, during the FATF plenary meeting in Paris," he added, requesting anonymity.
“France is determined to continue combating money laundering and terror financing and, on this occasion, will objectively evaluate, without any concession, Pakistan’s actions." Asked if France seeks Pakistan’s retention in the so-called “grey list" of nations, the person said: “We will see what the evaluation brings."
The FATF is an inter-governmental body set up to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
An Indian official privy to the discussions in Beijing told PTI that “there was a strong possibility that Pakistan can muster the needed 12 votes from the 39 members of the FATF to exit the ‘grey list’ and move to the ‘white list’," which will make it easy for Islamabad to access funds from international institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
“Many countries have come to the same conclusions as us at the FATF in the past. We hope this will continue in the Paris meeting as well. In Beijing the indications were different," said a third person familiar with the development.
In the run-up to the Beijing meeting, Pakistan had lobbied hard with the US and many other countries. Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the US last week, while prime minister Imran Khan had talks with president Donald Trump in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum this week.
The Beijing meet will give its inputs to the Paris-hosted FATF meeting, which will decide whether Pakistan stays in the ‘grey list’ or moves up to ‘white’, a second person familiar with the developments said, also requesting anonymity. While Chinese officials at the FATF meet were open in their support to Pakistan when it presented its compliance report in Beijing, countries like the US and some among the European Union did not question Pakistan’s compliance report, the person cited above said.
Pakistan was placed in the FATF’s grey list in June 2018, when the global watchdog found serious deficiencies in the country’s financial mechanism that failed to prevent the flow of money to terrorist groups operating from its soil. India accuses Pakistan of funding terrorist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar e Toiba who stage terror attacks against India in Kashmir and other parts of the country.