WASHINGTON: Pakistan is committed to fully implementing its action plan to counter money laundering and terrorist financing by February next year and there’s no disagreement among various governments’ institutions on this matter, says Financial Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
A global watchdog for money laundering and terrorist financing — the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — gave Pakistan a four-month lifeline on Friday, urging Islamabad to fulfil its commitments by February 2020.
Speaking to the US-based Pakistani media on Sunday evening, Mr Sheikh also highlighted the government’s efforts to revive the national economy.
“Basically, all government institutions are on the same page on this issue. We will take the decisions that we need to fight money laundering and terrorist financing,” said the adviser while responding to a question about the FATF deadline.
FATF also warned Pakistan that failing to fulfil its commitments to this international monitoring agency could put the country back on a list of jurisdictions branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.
Popularly known as the blacklist, the placement could lead to a punitive action, including the FATF urging all jurisdictions to watch their business relations and transactions with Pakistan.
In 2012, Pakistan was placed on the so-called grey-list of countries considered uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding. It remained on this list till 2015. Pakistan was replaced on the gray-list on June 29, 2018, and given 15 months to implement a 27-point action plan agreed with the FATF.
The Paris-based FATF reviewed the measures Pakistan has taken so far in a five-day plenary at its headquarters, which concluded on Friday. Representatives from 206 countries and jurisdictions around the world took part in the meeting.
Responding to a question at his news briefing at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Mr Shaikh said in an earlier meeting, the FATF had only recognised progress in five of the 27 recommended measures. “Now, it has recognised progress in 22, which shows we are steadily implementing the plan. We are committed to completing the plan by February,” he added.
Mr Shaikh disagreed with the suggestion that the FATF proposed measures had stymied the national economy. “Those measures are for preventing money laundering and terrorist financing and are not linked to economic growth,” he said.
The adviser said that he visited Washington to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank group but also used this opportunity to share the government’s plan to revive the national economy with finance ministers and officials of other states who attended these meetings.
The World Bank group’s annual meeting is one of the world’s largest gatherings of financial officials and is attended by hundreds of delegates from across the globe.
In a meeting with IMF Managing Director Krsitalina Georgieva, Mr Shaikh pointed that the first quarter results of the IMF-Pakistan programme indicated that the country’s economy was on its path to stabilisation and the reforms initiated under the programme were showing positive outcomes.
Ms Georgieva said that the IMF recognised Pakistan was taking tough decisions to stabilise its economy and assured of continued IMF support for the reform process.
Mr Shaikh also met World Bank Managing Director Axel Van Trotsenburg and highlighted the government’s focus on expediting speedy rollout of the World Bank’s pipeline projects.
Mr Trotsenburg noted that Pakistan was among the World Bank’s largest partners and beneficiaries and urged Islamabad to make optimal use of available World Bank resources.
In a meeting with the adviser, an IFC team led by its Vice President Nena Stoiljkovic, explained IFC’s pipelines projects in Pakistan, particularly in the wind and solar sectors, and also expressed interest in providing advisory services for structuring public-private partnership transactions.
Mr Sheikh and members of Pakistan delegation also met members of the US-Pakistan Business Council (UPBC) and explained the government’s focus on improving the ease-of-doing-business environment in the country. He also encouraged US companies to expand their footprint in Pakistan.
The Pakistani delegation also met Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank president (AIIB) Jin Liqun and discussed with him the AIIB portfolio in Pakistan and potential areas of project financing by the bank.
The president of AIIB reiterated support for Pakistan’s development agenda and said that the AIIB was ready to increase funding for Pakistan’s priority development sectors.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019