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Friends or foes?

FATF can prove to be an eye opener for PakistanWe all have heard a friend in need is a friend indeed.A question, however, we may have never asked is what to call the other otherwise? In case of Pakistan, apparently they remain a friend, even if they don't support us in the time of utter need and assistance.

The aforementioned miscalculation, nevertheless, may lead Pakistan to No-Man's land, and a diplomatic isolation at the international arena in future.Whereas it has always been the United States in the past that has left Pakistan in the time of need thinking whether Washington is even a friend or not, a latest aberration in the same came as nothing less than a shockwave when two countries that Pakistan holds in greatest respect and brotherhood, China and Saudi Arabia, abstained to vote against a motion moved by the United States to put Pakistan on the blacklist of the global financial watch-dog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The 37 member FATF held its plenary session in Paris from February 18 to 23, 2018 to review Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) controls and make recommendations regarding putting countries either on black or grey list. The recommendations of FATF are to be deemed as international standards for steps necessary to control AMLCFT.

The first meeting of the plenary was held on February 20, 2018 where three countries including China, Saudi Arabia (representing the Gulf Cooperation Council), and Turkey had opposed the motion to place Pakistan on the observation list amid which the US pushed for a second meeting regarding Pakistan's status on February 22, 2018. Preceding the second discussion, the US persuaded Saudi Arabia to abandon its support for Pakistan, following which Riyadh was to be granted a full membership of the FATF. Opposed to Pakistan's expectations from the brotherly Muslim country, Riyadh backed out of its support for Islamabad, leaving only two countries behind to look at for support.

Troubled by the grave concerns regarding Pakistan's capability to deliver on the commitments, China also opted out of opposing the move informing Islamabad that "it did not want to lose face by supporting a move that's doomed to fail"Troubled by the grave concerns regarding Pakistan's capability to deliver on the commitments, China also opted out of opposing the move informing Islamabad that "it did not want to lose face by supporting a move that's doomed to fail". Attempting to cover up the move later on, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson stated, "China highly recognises Pakistan's contributions, and hopes all relevant parties of the international community could arrive at an objective and fair conclusion on that".

Only Turkey remained committed to its stand, and voted against the move in favour of Pakistan.The US administration initiated the move to black-list Pakistan in view of its laggings to contain the funding of banned terrorist outfits, of which Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa tops the list.

Despite continual assurance from Pakistan, Washington remains committed to embarrass and isolate Islamabad at the international level in view of her assumption of Pakistan's ill-will to combat terrorism fully."If the Americans were interested in working with us and improving our CTF (counter-terrorist financing) regulations, they would have taken the offer I was making them, but their idea was just to embarrass Pakistan", stated Ismail Miftah, financial advisor to the prime minister, leading Pakistan's negotiations at the FATF meeting in Paris.

With Pakistan already struggling to define the state of relations with the US, it is now compelled to ask if the considered-to-be ever green relations with China and Saudi Arabia are also dwindling with the global winds of change. While Saudi Arabia abstained to vote in favour of Pakistan, a contingent of Pakistan army has already been sent to Riyadh in connection to the ongoing bilateral security cooperation between the two countries aimed at fighting terrorism.

This move by Pakistan to send troops, although questioned by many at home, should have been a clear sign of Islamabad's commitment to countering terrorism.Abstinence by China to support Pakistan, on the other hand, comes as a serious blow to Islamabad's diplomatic strength which majorly roams around bilateral relations with Beijing.

Although currently placed on grey-list, come June if Pakistan fails to assure FATF of its fool proof AML/CFT controls, ending up in the black-list, it will be interesting to see how China lays down the future path of its relations with Islamabad. Amid the aforementioned occurrence, the future of future's game changer, CPEC, might well be ambiguous.

But can we really blame China and Saudi Arabia for their move at the FATF? An emotional response might be yes, but a rational response perhaps will be no, as it is the national interest that comes before the rest. In fact, there might be no friendships on the diplomatic table.

The present and future relations between any two countries are based purely on shared interests, and common geo-strategic and economic goals.Pakistan must take FATF as an eye-opener.

It is high time for Islamabad to re-visit its foreign policy, and set its priorities right. Our diplomacy should be based on priorities that mark national interests, not friendships.
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Publication:Pakistan Today (Lahore, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 6, 2018
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