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U.S. Move To Put Pakistan On Terror Financing Watch List Delayed

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif (right) met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (left) in Moscow on February 20
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif (right) met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (left) in Moscow on February 20

A U.S. motion to put Pakistan on a terrorist financing watch list has been deferred for three months, Pakistani officials said.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said late on February 20 that the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force decided not to take action immediately on the U.S. move to add Pakistan to the so-called "gray list" of countries which are not doing enough to comply with terrorist-funding regulations.

Pakistani officials feared that being listed could do serious damage to the economy and have been scrambling to avoid it, in particular by announcing a ban last week on charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, an Islamist leader who the United States says was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

Nations that belong to the international task force on terrorist financing have been meeting this week in Paris, where it was expected that they would decide on the U.S. motion, which was backed by Britain, France, and Germany.

Asif, who is currently on a visit to Russia, tweeted late on February 20 that Pakistan's "efforts have paid [off]," saying there was "no consensus for nominating Pakistan."

He said the task force proposed a "3 months pause" and said its Asia Pacific group would consider the matter again in June.

"Grateful to friends who helped," Asif said.

No U.S. Confirmation

Although no details were available, official sources said that China, Turkey, and Russia, all of which are on the task force, opposed the U.S. motion against Pakistan.

Two other Pakistani officials confirmed that Islamabad had received a reprieve of three months.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department official could not confirm that action was deferred. The official said that the task force's deliberations are confidential until it makes them public.

The international community continues to have concerns about deficiencies in Pakistan’s anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing system, even though Islamabad has begun taking steps to address the flaws, the official said.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, Washington has toughened its stance toward Islamabad for allegedly maintaining ties with Islamist militants. Last month, the Trump administration suspended military aid to Pakistan worth about $2 billion.

Pakistan denies U.S. charges that it harbors militants who have launched attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, and has reacted angrily to U.S. threats of further punitive measures.

Pakistan called the U.S. gray-listing move "politically motivated," but officials said they were concerned that it could hurt Pakistan's banking sector, causing economic pain as a national election looms.

Nations already on the terror financial watch list include North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka.

With reporting by Reuters and The Express Tribune
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