FATF grey list

November 09, 2019

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LITTLE by little, the truth about Pakistan’s difficulties involving the Financial Action Task Force is coming out. For a while, the attitude towards the global financial watchdog and its repeated warnings about the vulnerability of Pakistan’s financial system to terror-financing and money-laundering risks were received with a casual shrug, as if none of it was to be taken seriously. Then came a period when we were told it was all a political conspiracy against Pakistan, and the vulnerabilities themselves deserved no consideration. Matters began to be taken more seriously by November 2017 with the first indications that the move towards blacklisting Pakistan could be real after all. By February 2018, this became quite evident, and Pakistan scrambled on two separate action plans, one for the Asia Pacific Group, which is a regional grouping of FATF, and the other submitted directly to the latter body. Since then, action has been patchy, but all along we were being told by different authorities that Pakistan was making progress, that soon the tide would turn and the movement would be in the opposite direction, away from grey listing and certainly not towards full blacklisting.

Now, suddenly, we have a new turn in this evolution of Pakistan’s self-reckoning exercise where the demands and conditions of FATF are concerned. We are told by Hammad Azhar, the minister directly tasked with coordinating the implementation of the action plans as well as presenting Pakistan’s case before the global watchdog, that grey listing is likely to continue all through next year since more than one action plan has to be completed — one of which is due to be evaluated next October. But then, he reverted to the comforting presentation of “partial compliance on 22 of the 27 points” in the action plan due for evaluation in February. There is no longer any point in putting a smiley face on the realities that Pakistan is facing on the FATF front, and it is high time the authorities told us exactly what is going on. The truth is that Pakistan is having a difficult time complying with the terms of its own action plan, and long after the expiration of its deadline for completion, it can at best report “partial compliance” on most actionable items. The journey of denial needs to end soon so that the truth can be told in clear, unambiguous words.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019