New anti-Pak US move

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The United States Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which works under the Department of Commerce, has placed sanctions on seven Pakistani firms purportedly engaged in nuclear trade and likely to damage Pakistan’s endeavour to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Indeed, it obstructs Pakistan’s bid for a full membership of NSG. This action is being considered as another attempt to pressurize Pakistan because Islamabad is determined not to accept the unrealistic dictates of the Trump Administration. Twenty-three sanctioned companies from Pakistan, Singapore and South Sudan were placed on the US “Entity List” on March 22 according to the BIS document published on the US Federal Register website which “identifies entities reasonably believed to be involved, or to pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Of the seven Pakistan firms based in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad banned by the US, an eighth is operated by Pakistanis from Singapore. Mushko Electronics Pvt. Ltd. in Singapore and Mushko Electronics Pvt. Ltd. in Pakistan are accused of procuring material for several sanctioned Pakistani entities. Solutions Engineering has been listed over “involvement in activity contrary” to US interests while Akhtar & Munir, Proficient Engineers and Pervaiz Commercial Trading Co. (PCTC) have been listed for their alleged involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities. Marine Systems Pvt. Ltd. is suspected of circumventing the export administration regulations restrictions assisting sanctioned Pakistani entities to acquire “items.” The last firm, Engineering and Commercial Services (ECS), has allegedly supplied material to a Pakistani nuclear entity.
The latest action by Washington is likely to further strain relations with Islamabad. The two nations, once strong allies, have drifted apart over conflict of interests and widening trust deficit. Both sides have made attempts to repair relations but mixed signals from within each country’s government hierarchy have placed progress on a number of issues on shaky ground. In February, the US, backed by Britain, France and Germany, emphasized concerns about the depth of Islamabad’s commitment to tackle money laundering and terror financing and tried to convince the Financial Action Task Force to place Pakistan back on its “gray list.” Islamabad calls FATF’s attempt politically motivated. The International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukia Amano, who visited some of Pakistan’s nuclear plants and health facilities in March, commended the country’s command, control, knowledge, and safety of nuclear technology. His concluding remark was: “The NSG would be better off with Pakistan inside rather than outside.”The NSG was founded in 1974 to prevent nuclear proliferation through stringent checks and balances over the material export, technology and equipment used for nuclear weapons manufacturing. Pakistan, backed by Turkey and China, applied for NSG’s membership on May 19, 2016, and maintains that non-discriminatory criteria-based approach is needed for all non-NPT countries for inclusion in the group.
The move is backed by several nations, including Kazakhstan and Belarus, and Russia has signaled its support. Pakistan Foreign Ministry has responded to reports saying it would seek information from the US and the companies to better understand the circumstances that led to the listing. All the companies are from the private sector, and will require additional scrutiny to meet licensing requirements to acquire US-origin items. Pakistan may be at risk of being placed back on the international terror-financing watch list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). FATF began its six-day plenary meeting in Paris on Sunday to discuss the safety and security of the global financial system. The resolution to place Pakistan on FATF’s list is spearheaded by the US, with the support of Britain, France and Germany. The US has reportedly had concerns about the depth of Pakistan’s commitment to tackling money laundering and terror financing. US-Pakistan relations hit a new low last year when Washington – unveiling its new strategy for Afghanistan – accused Pakistan of harbouring and supporting terrorists.