ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and his team holding talks with a US delegation led by Alice Wells.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and his team holding talks with a US delegation led by Alice Wells.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The United States has asked Pakistan to show tangible and satisfactory actions against banned organisations and their leaderships to pacify more countries towards supporting its case to move out of the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

A senior government official told Dawn that a US delegation was in Islamabad to have an independent assessment of steps, actions and measures identified during the Florida meetings of the FATF in June this year and the progress made by Pakistan since then.

The delegation comprising Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice G. Wells, US Treasury officials Scott Rembrandt, Grant Vickers, David Galbraith and others also met Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Tuesday.

“The adviser briefed the visiting delegation on the measures pertaining to economic reforms being undertaken by the Government of Pakistan to ensure economic discipline, efforts being made towards implementation of FATF Action Plan and the key challenges being faced,” said an official statement.

The official, who has been part of Pakistan’s team interacting with the FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) over the past year, said Islamabad had taken significant steps since the FATF meetings in June. He said the international partners helped Islamabad engage foreign consultants to support and prepare key stakeholders such as Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to take actions and formulate reports keeping in view the international perspective.

Delegation visiting Islamabad for independent assessment meets PM’s aide on finance

He said the Pakistani authorities had made significant progress during the past one year, particularly over the past couple of months, but the international perspective in various presentations and reports to the APG and FATF was missing.

He expressed the hope that international experts in the four key organisations would bridge those groups.

He informed the US delegation that the National Assembly’s standing committee on finance had cleared two critical bills relating to amendments in Foreign Exchange Regulations and anti-money laundering law. However, the visiting delegation was more interested in a time frame when they would become laws, properly passed by the parliament and signed by the President of Pakistan.

The US delegation had rather strong position on taking actions against banned outfits, their activities and movements of their leaderships and key operatives and wanted some visible progress by the authorities to address adverse opinions from majority of FATF members, the official said.

Ambassador Wells-led team’s assessment would be shared with the APG simultaneously with a report to be prepared by Pakistan for discussions in September and then become the basis of FATF meeting due from Oct 13 to 18 in Paris to decide Islamabad’s compliance with requirements of the global financial watchdog relating to anti-money laundering (AML) and to counter terror financing (CFT).

An official statement said Dr Shaikh briefed the delegation regarding implementation of FATF Action Plan and said the “government is putting in all-out efforts to complete the Action Plan, involving all relevant authorities at the federal and provincial levels, supported by capacity building through international partners”.

The adviser expressed Pakistan’s commitment to enhance the effectiveness of its AML/CFT framework being undertaken by the government, with the objective to ensure that all the actions that were being taken to curb terror financing were irreversible and sustainable. In this regard, Dr Shaikh called for continued support of the international community to strengthen the AML/CFT framework over a longer period of time.

Amb Wells appreciated the briefings and expressed that the US would continue to remain engaged with Pakistan in its economic reforms efforts and help build an environment that facilitates business development between the two countries, the statement said.

The finance adviser emphasised the importance of bilateral engagement with the US and told the delegation that over the past three months, the government had taken significant steps to bring financial discipline that include reduction in current account deficit, focus on increasing revenue generation, measures to reduce fiscal expenditures, reduce fiscal borrowings, efforts to enhance foreign exchange reserves through bilateral and multilateral support, arrangement of petroleum credit facility.

As part of its institutional development initiative, the SBP and the FBR are being resourced and empowered. At the same time to facilitate economic growth and support the people below the poverty line, various programmes to support Pakistan’s export-oriented industries and health insurance schemes have been introduced for the poor.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2019

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