Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: While giving a four-month lifeline, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020 and until then the country will remain on the ‘grey list’.

The Paris-based FATF reviewed measures taken and progress made by almost 15 countries, including Pakistan, vis-à-vis anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) in its five-day plenary, which con­clu­ded on Friday. Representatives from 206 countries and jurisdictions around the world took part in the meeting. The Pakistani delegation was led by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Hammad Azhar.

At the end of the meeting, three countries — Iceland, Mongolia and Zimbabwe — were added to the grey list, while Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ethiopia were removed from the list as they have adequately complied with the FATF recommendations.

The news is not that good in the case of Pakistan as the global watchdog warned of action in case significant and sustainable progress is not made across the full range of action plan by the next plenary scheduled for February 2020, a statement issued by the FATF said. The action, it added, could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan.

Finance ministry reaffirms commitment to implementing watchdog’s action plan

“To date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan,” the note further said.

While noting recent improvements, the FATF again expressed serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its TF (terror financing) risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risks, and more broadly, the country’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in the light of TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction.

The FATF places those countries on its grey list which are not taking measures to combat terror funding and money laundering. Placement on the grey list is a warning for a country that it may be put on the blacklist in case of its failure to take effective measures against money laundering and terror financing.

In 2012, Pakistan was placed on the grey list and remained till 2015. The country was put on the list again on June 29, 2018. Pakistan was given 15 months for implementation of the 27-point action plan, with a warning that in case of failure the country would be added to the blacklist — a list of the countries branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.

Currently, only Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist.

Ramsha Jahangir
Ramsha Jahangir

 

Since June last year when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to working with the FATF and APG (Asia Pacific Group) to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and address its strategic counterterrorism financing-related deficiencies, Islamabad has made progress towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including the recent development of its ML/TF risk assessment, according to the FATF statement.

Soon after the FATF announcement, the finance ministry in a statement on Friday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to implementing the FATF action plan.

The FATF meeting considered Pakistan’s progress report on the action plan and its APG mutual evaluation report (MER).

But the finance ministry claimed that the plenary meeting decided to maintain status quo on the FATF action plan and allow the usual 12-month observation period for the APG MER. The Pakistani delegation also held sideline meetings with various delegations and briefed them on the progress made by Pakistan on the FATF action plan and steps taken for strengthening its AML/CFT framework, the finance ministry’s statement said.

At the plenary, Pakistan reiterated its political commitment to completing its action plan and implementing AML/CFT reforms. At the end of five days, the FATF reminded Pakistan that it should make progress on its earlier commitments, the global watchdog’s statement said. Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by adequately demonstrating its proper understanding of the TF risks posed by terrorist groups, and conducting supervision on a risk-sensitive basis, it added.

It said Islamabad demonstrated that remedial actions and sanctions were applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions had an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. Moreover, competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services (MVTS).

The authorities will identify cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency; improving inter-agency coordination, including between provincial and federal authorities on combating TF risks; law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities.

It further said that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and enhancing the capacity and support for prosecutors and the judiciary and demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.

The FATF said Pakistan is demonstrating enforcement against TF violations including administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases; demonstrating that facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons are deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources.

But the statement said that all deadlines in the action plan have now expired.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019

SLAMABAD: The Finan­cial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided in principle that Pakistan will remain on its grey list till next February and directed Islamabad to take ‘extra measures’ for ‘complete’ elimination of terror financing and money laundering.

An FATF meeting in Paris on Tuesday reviewed the measures that Islamabad has already taken to control money laundering and terror financing. However, the meeting observed that Islamabad will have to take further steps in these four months.

The FATF has linked the blacklisting of Pakistan with unsatisfactory steps to curb money laundering and terror financing. The FATF will make final decision in Feb 2020.

A formal announcement about these developments will be made on Oct 18 this year.

The spokesperson for the finance ministry, Omar Hameed Khan was approached to verify the news but he said that “it is not true and nothing before October 18”.

Islamabad urged to take extra measures to avoid plunging into black list

But, Paris-based correspondent of Aaj TV Younus Khan confirmed to Dawn on phone that the FATF has decided to give an additional respite of four months to Pakistan to help her implement remaining recommendations.

“My sources have confirmed to me about these developments,” Mr Khan said, adding that a formal statement in this regard will be issued on Friday, the last day of the latest FATF session.

A Pakistani delegation led by Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar told the meeting that Islamabad has made positive progress in 20 out of 27 points. The FATF ex­­pressed satisfaction on the mea­­sures taken by Pakistan and its progress in various areas.

Mr Azhar could not be contacted to get official response despite attempts.

Six days of FATF meetings will focus on disrupting financial flows linked to crimes and terrorism and discuss ways to contribute to global safety and security.

China, Turkey and Malaysia appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan.

Meanwhile, representatives from 205 countries and jurisdictions around the world, the IMF, UN, World Bank and other organisations are attending the meeting.

At the Tuesday meeting, India has recommended to blacklist Pakistan on the plea that Islamabad has allowed Hafiz Saeed to withdraw funds from his frozen accounts.

Concerns were also raised on the tax amnesty scheme offered in Pakistan.

On the outright support extended by Turkey, China and Malaysia, the FATF decided not to include Pakistan on the blacklist and give it more time to implement the remaining measures.

The decision to stay on grey list is still considered a success of the government. Moreover, the FATF also acknowledged the steps already taken by Pakistan to prevent money laundering and terrorists’ access to financial sources. The FATF stressed the need for further implementation of the action plan by Pakistan.

According to the FATF charter comprising 36 countries, the support of at least three countries is required to not blacklist any country.

In August 2019, the Asia-Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the FATF, also expressed concern over Pakistan’s performance due to technical flaws. Islamabad is obligated to report its performance to the Group every three months.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.

They were received by the premier at the Prime Minister House, where a lunch is being hosted for the guests.

William's late mother, Diana, was a friend of the prime minister and visited Pakistan twice — 1996 and 1997 — to help raise awareness and funds for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

 

 

Prior to meeting the prime minister, the couple was welcomed by President Arif Alvi and his wife Samina Arif at Aiwan-i-Sadr.

The British royal couple was received by President Arif Alvi and his wife Samina Arif at Aiwan-i-Sadr. — Photo courtesy FO
The British royal couple was received by President Arif Alvi and his wife Samina Arif at Aiwan-i-Sadr. — Photo courtesy FO

 

Middleton, who earlier donned a royal blue kurta, changed into a green and white attire for the formal receptions.

The royal couple was accompanied by Thomas Drew, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan; Simon Case, the Principal Private Secretary to the Duke; and Christian Jones, the Communications Secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

 

The president commended the visiting dignitaries for their endeavors to raise awareness about mental health, climate change, and poverty alleviation, said a press release by the president's secretariat.

The Duke of Cambridge thanked the president for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his entourage. The royal couple appreciated the initiatives undertaken by Pakistan's government to combat climate change and to alleviate poverty, added the statement.

Visit to school, Margalla Trail 5

Prince William and Kate Middleton with students of Government Girls High School in Islamabad.
Prince William and Kate Middleton with students of Government Girls High School in Islamabad.

 

This is the first visit of the duke and duchess to Pakistan, during which they aim to "meet as many Pakistanis as possible and build a lasting friendship with the people of the country".

The couple kicked off their engagements on the second day of their five-day visit to Pakistan with a visit to the Government Girls College on Tuesday morning, where they interacted with the staff and students and visited classrooms.

Clips shared by British media show one of the schoolgirls telling William that "they were fans" of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. "I was a big fan of my mother too," he replied with a smile.

 

 

After their visit to the school, they arrived at Trail 5, Margalla to attend an event regarding environmental protection. Strict security arrangements were made prior to their arrival.

 

 

A visit to the Pakistan National Monument is also part of the royal couple's agenda.

Arrival in Pakistan

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, receives a bouquet from a child upon arrival in Islamabad on Monday night. — Reuters
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, receives a bouquet from a child upon arrival in Islamabad on Monday night. — Reuters

 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Islamabad on Monday night and were received by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his wife Mehriene Qureshi at the Nur Khan Airbase. British High Commissioner in Pakistan Thomas Drew was also present on the occasion.

The five-day visit, which will end on October 18, has been organised at the request of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

According to a handout from Kensington Palace, the British royal couple will visit Islamabad, Lahore, Gilgit-Baltistan and rugged border regions to the west. The visit will span over 1,000 kilometres, and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes, the handout said.

Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, will make their first visit to Pakistan today and are expected to arrive in Islamabad at 9pm.

The five-day visit, which will end on October 18, has been organised at the request of the United Kingdom’s (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

This will be the first royal tour to the country since 2006 when Prince Charles and Camilla, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, travelled to Pakistan.

Taking to twitter, British High Commissioner in Pakistan Thomas Drew said that the primary focus of the visit was to showcase Pakistan as a "dynamic, aspirational and forward looking nation".

 

He added that the royal couple is looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan.

During their time in Pakistan, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit Islamabad, Lahore, Gilgit-Baltistan and rugged border regions to the west, an official handout from Kensington Palace had stated. The visit will span over 1,000 kilometres, and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes, the handout said.

“Access to quality education, particularly to girls and young women is one of the UK’s top priorities in Pakistan,” it added.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said the visit would further improve ties between Pakistan and Britain.

Qureshi said Prince William’s mother Princess Diana visited Pakistan in the 1990s to participate in a fund-raising event for a cancer hospital built by Imran Khan, adding Pakistanis still fondly remember Diana, who died in a car accident in 1997.

MANSEHRA: The police and local residents recovered the bodies of three tourists who died after being trapped in heavy snowfall in Kandia valley of Upper Kohistan district on Saturday.

“The bodies of three youngsters, who were trapped because of sudden snowfall in Kandia valley, have been recovered and dispatched to their native area in Kalam,” Arif Khan Yousafzai, deputy commissioner Upper Kohistan, told reporters on Saturday.

The tourists sneaked into Kanida valley, a difficult and high altitude terrain from neighbouring Kalam area of Malakand division some three days ago on a creational tour, but the weather suddenly became rough and snowfall trapped them in the thick forest in the valley.

Mr Yousafzai said that three youngsters, including Aziz Ahmad, Safoor Ahmad and Inam Khan, all residents of Ashuran village of Kalam, had come to Kandia valley, but were trapped in heavy snowfall.

The district administration shifted the bodies to the police post at Thoti in the Kandia valley.

Also in the day, the body of district education officer, Kolai-Palas, was found in his room.

“The body has been shifted to hospital for autopsy,” district police officer Iftikhar Ahmad told reporters. He said that what caused his death would be cleared after the autopsy. He said that a pistol was found near the body of the district education officer.

Source: Dawn

ISLAMABAD: Following completion of the first phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Joint Working Group of China and Pakistan on Infr­a­structure Develop­ment has decided to expedite work on the western route.

A delegation headed by the transport minister of China called on Minister for Communications Murad Saeed and discussed the infrastructure development projects in detail, according to a statement issued by the Press Information Depa­rtment on Saturday.

The Joint Working Group has signed a memorandum of understanding for transport infrastructure development.

The statement said under the CPEC’s second phase, around 1,270km highways would be constructed and the roads from Gilgit to Chitral, Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob, Peshawar-Dera Ismail Khan and Swat Expressway Phase-II would also be developed.

The Chinese delegation appreciated the performance of the ministry of communications for timely completion of the first phase projects.

Source: Dawn

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi has announced that the government has granted tax exemption to the China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) for 23 years to facilitate establishment of its industrial units at Gwadar Port.

Accompanied by COPHC Chief Executive Officer Zhang Baozhong and Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Mr Zaidi told a press conference on Tuesday that the COPHC that had already been operating at Gwadar Port would get tax exemption for installation of machinery and other equipment at the port.

The initiative was a step towards relocation of the Chinese manufacturing industry in Gwadar and engaging the local labour, he said, adding that the move would ultimately boost Pakistan’s economy.

The minister said the COPHC would also set up a desalination plant with the cost of Rs1.95 billion to provide 5,000 gallons of water per day to the people.

He announced that China would build Pak-China Technical and Vocational Training Institute in Gwadar at a cost of around $10 million, which would open job opportunities for locals. “About 360 students equipped with technical skills would pass out from the institute every year,” he said.

Mr Zaidi said Pak-China Friendship Hospital would also be established on 68-acre land at an estimated cost of $100 million. Besides, he added, a coal power plant for generating 300MW electricity would also be set up in Gwadar.

On the issue of Gwadar Port’s connectivity with Makran Coastal Highway, he said the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved construction of three bridges on the Eastbay Expressway to resolve the grievances of local fisherman.

Around 40 per cent construction work on the Eastbay Expressway had been completed while the rest would be completed by December 2020, he added.

COPHC CEO Zhang Baozhong said the present government had resolved the tax exemption issue that had been pending for the past seven years. He expressed the hope that due to the business-friendly policies of the government, more foreign investment would come to the country.

 

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