NEW DELHI : India will keep up the pressure on Pakistan to cut finances to terrorist groups, in particular seeking action against Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, as the 39-member Financial Action Task Force (FATF) begins its meetings in Paris this week, diplomats familiar with the matter said.

The FATF begins a key plenary session on Monday which is to review “progress by Iran, Pakistan and other countries that present a risk to the financial system," a statement posted on the FATF website said. “On Sunday, 16 February, more than 800 representatives from 205 countries and jurisdictions around the world, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), UN (United Nations), World Bank and other organizations, will arrive for FATF Week in Paris, France. Six days of meetings will focus on global action to follow the money that fuels crime and terrorism and reduce the harm caused to people and society," the FATF statement said.

Ahead of the Paris plenary, Pakistan last week sentenced Hafiz Saeed, chief of the LeT, who is accused by India of planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to 11 years in prison for two cases of funneling money for terrorist activities. The two sentences are to run concurrently—meaning Saeed’s term in prison will effectively be slightly more than five years. The move could ease some pressure on Pakistan which is looking to exit the FATF’s ‘grey list’—that results in increased spotlight on the country and its financial mechanism. The sentencing of Saeed was welcomed by the US as an important step. Washington, which is looking for a deal with the Taliban in order to reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan, is seen as dependent on Islamabad to deliver the peace pact with the Taliban, given the former’s influence on the latter.

In the case of Hafiz Saeed, India is expected to point out that his conviction can go into appeal—clearly putting the irreversibility of action under question. In its comments on the Hafiz Saeed conviction last week, India had made clear it was not impressed with the Pakistani move, calling it part of the neighbouring country’s international obligations. India also pointed to the timing of the move, as it comes ahead of the FATF meeting. “Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen," India had said.

According to a person familiar with the developments in Pakistan, Islamabad is looking for a favourable outcome from the Paris plenary. It is to show complete compliance on 16 of 27 parameters and partial compliance on nine others and one benchmark without compliance at the Paris meet. Islamabad’s argument is expected to be that it has two legislations in the Pakistan National Assembly awaiting passage that will show it is making progress on the last parameter where its compliance is not complete. This would mean Islamabad not getting off the grey list at the Paris meet this week, but ensuring that it will not remain on that list much longer, the person cited above said. There is no question of Pakistan getting blacklisted given that it enjoys the support of Turkey, China and Malaysia in the grouping, this person said. “Pakistan will show it is making progress at the (Paris FATF) meet. Getting out of the grey list will not happen this time. But it will happen this year either in June or in September," the person cited above said, referring to forthcoming meetings of the FATF.

New Delhi, on its part, will push for Pakistan to take action against Masood Azhar, seen as a key conspirator in the December 2001 terrorist attack on India’s Parliament, diplomats said. India also wants to keep up pressure on Pakistan for freeing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi who along with Hafiz Saeed were seen as the main plotters of the 2008 November terrorist attacks on India’s financial capital Mumbai which claimed 166 lives.

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