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Progress in curbing terror financing, says China, seeks FATF reprieve for Pakistan

Against the backdrop of a meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Beijing that assessed Islamabad’s efforts to counter terror financing, China on Thursday said its close ally Pakistan has made “visible progress” and should be backed by the world community.

India’s external affairs ministry declined to comment on the working of the multilateral watchdog, citing the confidentiality of its working, though spokesperson Raveesh Kumar noted that the FATF’s last plenary meeting in October had expressed “very serious concern” at Pakistan’s overall lack of progress in implementing an action plan.

Reports from Islamabad said a Pakistani delegation led by economic affairs minister Hammad Azhar had defended the country’s efforts to comply with the action plan at the meeting of FATF’s Asia Pacific Joint Group in Beijing even as the country sought to gain more time to fully implement the plan.

Pakistan was placed in FATF’s “grey list” in 2018 for not doing enough to counter the raising of funds by al-Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Since then, it has missed several deadlines to implement the action plan. FATF’s next plenary meeting, to be held in Paris from February 16, will decide whether to retain Pakistan in the grey list or move it to the “black list”, which will entail harsher sanctions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a news briefing on Thursday he wasn’t aware of the details of the FATF meeting but added: “Pakistan has made all-out efforts to strengthen the domestic counter-terror financing regime with visible progress. Its political will and active efforts should be recognised and encouraged by the international community.

“We hope FATF will offer Pakistan constructive support and assistance in its continued efforts to improve its counter-terrorism financing system and effectively fight terrorist financing.”

China is the current president of FATF and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Joint Group. Geng added China will continue to uphold an impartial and constructive attitude in discussions.

In New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Kumar said India presumes that FATF will evaluate Pakistan’s progress on the basis of set criteria. “You may recall that at the last plenary meeting in Paris in October, the body had expressed very serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its terror financing risks,” he said.

People familiar with developments said Pakistan is backing on support from China, Malaysia and Turkey to stymie any possible move to put it in the black list. The most likely outcome of the upcoming Paris meeting will be that Pakistan will remain in the grey list for at least another six months, they said.

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