US sanctions seven pakistani firms for nuclear trade

Washington: The Trump administration has added seven Pakistani companies to a list of foreign entities that presumably pose a significant risk to the national security and policy interests of the United States by allegedly engaging in nuclear trade.

The move could undermine Pakistan’s ambition of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an elite club of countries that can trade fissile materials and nuclear technologies.  The move forms a series of decisions aimed at putting a squeeze on Pakistan.

The list, prepared by the US Bureau of Industry and Security, declares that all seven companies are “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”.

In all, a total of 23 entities added to the list that was published in the US Federal Register this week. Besides Pakistani companies, the list includes 15 entities from South Sudan and one from Singapore. All 23 entities now face stringent export control measures, which could prevent them from conducting international trade.

Among the seven Pakistani companies three are listed for “their involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear acti­vi­ties that are contrary to the national security and/or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

Two are accused of procuring supplies for nuclear-related entities already on the list and the remaining two are accused of acting as fronts for listed entities. An eighth Pakistani entity is based in Singapore.

The End-user Review Committee (ERC) of the US Department of Commerce determined that Mushko Logistics Pvt. Ltd., Singapore, and Mushko Electronics Pvt. Ltd., Pakistan, be added to the list on the grounds that these entities procured items for several Pakistani entities on the entity list.

The ERC determined that Solutions Engineering, Pakistan be added to the list based on its involvement in activities contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests. Specifically, the ERC determined that this entity has been involved in the procurement of US-origin items on behalf of nuclear-related entities in Pakistan that are already on the ERC list.

For the remaining five Pakistani entities, the ERC determined that three of the entities, Akhtar & Munir, Proficient Engineers and Pervaiz Commercial Trading Co. (PCTC), be added based on their involvement in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities that are contrary to the national security and/or foreign policy interests of the United States. The ERC also determined that Marine Systems Pvt. Ltd. be added to the list for assisting Pakistani entities in circumventing US restrictions. The ERC also determined that Engineering and Commercial Services (ECS) be added to the list based on its involvement in supplying a Pakistani nuclear-related entity.

Companies dealing with the 23 entities added to the ERC list could face strict licence conditions or licence denials. The licence requirements apply to any transaction in which items are to be exported, re-exported, or transferred to any of the persons or in which such persons act as purchaser, intermediate consignee, ultimate consignee, or end user.

In addition, no licence exceptions are available for exports, re-exports, or transfers to the entities being added to the list in this rule.

The list also includes several addresses of each of the seven Pakistani companies in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

The move would also have a negative impact on Pakistan’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which was formed in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974. The group’s main objective was to prevent other nations from conducting nuclear tests.

Pakistan applied for the NSG membership on May 19, 2016, after it appeared that the United States and certain other Western nations are actively supporting India’s bid to join the group. Pakistan argues that NSG should adopt a non-discriminatory, criteria-based approach for inducting new members. Several countries support the Pakistani position.

Although China and Turkey have cited procedural issues in adding new members to the NSG, both have underlined the right of Pakistan to aspire to become a member of the club, which works on the principle of consensus to accept new members.

Earlier, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said he was highly impressed by the standards Pakistan is maintaining at the various civilian nuclear facilities and installations that he recently visited in Pakistan.

Amano, while addressing a seminar in Karachi, told the audience, “Your country [Pakistan] is an experienced user of peaceful nuclear technology.”

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