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US ‘strongly urges’ Pakistan to follow FATF action plan

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells said the US strongly urges Pakistan to follow the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan, and emphasised that the requirements given in the plan have to be fulfilled.

“It’s not a political process, but we certainly support and stand ready to assist Pakistan as it implements these obligations,” she said at a briefing in response to a question asking if the US will respond to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s request for intervention in getting Pakistan out of the grey list. “FATF is a technical process. There has been an action plan that was presented to Pakistan. It’s a question of fulfilling the requirements that have been spelt out and that are asked of all countries in the international system,” she told media at the US Department of State while briefing them on her recent trip to Pakistan and other South Asian countries.

“I welcomed efforts by Pakistan to meet its counterterrorism financing obligations under FATF. We strongly encourage Pakistan to work with FATF and the international community to fully satisfy its action plan commitments,” she said. “Completion of the FATF action plan is critical to Pakistan’s economic reform efforts, including its IMF program, as well as for demonstrating sustained and irreversible action against all militant groups based in Pakistan without distinction,” she added.

Asked if Pakistan’s IMF funding can get affected if it does not comply with FATF regulations, Ambassador Wells responded, “If Pakistan does not meet its FATF obligations or if it is blacklisted, that will be devastating for Pakistan’s economic reform programme and for its ability to attract investors.” However, she added that Washington is “pleased to see progress by Pakistan towards fulfilling FATF obligations”. “There is a meeting underway currently in Beijing where Pakistan is presenting its actions to the task force. And so I defer to that task force to make its evaluation. But the more evidence there is of Pakistan’s seriousness in both documenting its economy and in shrinking the space for militants to be able to take advantage of Pakistan’s either banking system or territory, the more confidence the international community and business community will have in working with Pakistan,” she added.

While reading out a statement at the US Department of State about her recent trip to Islamabad, Ambassador Wells said, “We’ve seen obvious progress in our relations with Pakistan, from the high-level engagement such as the President’s warm and constructive meeting with Prime Minister Khan at Davos to the restoration of the International Military Education and Training programs.”

Wells, when asked what she had to say about Pakistan and China’s negative reaction to her critical comments on CPEC, clarified that it is Pakistan’s sovereign right to decide what investment it seeks and on what terms. She said that the US, as a friend of Pakistan, wants to ‘advise’ Islamabad to take on investment projects that create wealth, generate employment and are sustainable and generate the greatest economic prosperity. She went as far as to offer that, “we have great options for the Pakistan market.” “You have Exxon-Mobil, Excelerate, Cargill, Honeywell, all pursuing major new investments. You have Uber creating 80,000 jobs for Pakistani youth,” she noted. “The argument that I was making in Pakistan is that there are opportunities and should be opportunities for American investment,” she said.

On the topic of Afghanistan, Wells said, “We appreciate the steps Pakistan has taken to advance the Afghan peace process and Pakistan has important leverage to promote lasting security and stability in Afghanistan.” When asked what the current status of the Afghan peace deal is, Wells said all she can say is that Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and his team are in Doha, “encouraging the Taliban to make a commitment to a reduction in violence that would allow Afghans to sit at a negotiation table. And so that process continues.”

Ambassador Wells said she had ‘extensive conversations’ with government, military, civil society, and business leaders to bolster economic ties where the US is Pakistan’s largest export market, largest trade partner, and historically one of its most significant investors. She pointed at energy and agriculture as industries where there were possibilities of greater cooperation, and spoke about opening Pakistan’s markets to American investments that can create jobs and wealth without sacrificing standards or fueling corruption. “We’re looking forward to welcoming 10 Pakistani buyer delegations to the US and five regional trade shows in 2020, which will build deeper relationships between US and Pakistani firms,” she revealed. “Prime Minister Khan’s economic reform efforts contributed to the World Bank identifying it as one of the top 10 reformers globally in 2019,” she noted.

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