Pakistan's progress to be discussed in week-long FATF meetings starting today

February 16, 2020

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The FATF plenary and working group meetings are set to run from February 16 till Feb 21 in Paris, France. — FATF website/File
The FATF plenary and working group meetings are set to run from February 16 till Feb 21 in Paris, France. — FATF website/File

A week of meetings of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to start today during which the international watchdog, which monitors global money laundering and terror financing, will discuss progress made by Pakistan.

The FATF plenary and working group meetings are set to run from February 16 till Feb 21 in Paris, France.

According to an update shared on the FATF website, six days of the meeting will "focus on global action to follow the money that fuels crime and terrorism and reduce the harm caused to people and society". This will be followed by a plenary from February 19.

As per FATF, the important issues to be discussed include progress made by countries such as Iran and Pakistan "that present a risk to the financial system".

The Pakistani delegation will be headed by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar. It will include members of both the foreign ministry and interior ministry as well as State Bank of Pakistan and the financial monitoring unit (FMU) officials.

The Paris based watchdog had placed Pakistan on a list of countries that have failed to eradicate money laundering and where terrorists can still raise funds for their activities. If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.

Read: Pakistan on FATF’s grey list: what, why, and why now?

Pakistan was placed on the FATF grey list in June 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the blacklist along with Iran and North Korea.

In October 2019, the FATF decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list till February, giving it time to implement a 27-point action plan. The FATF met again in January this year in Beijing where Pakistan provided a list of actions taken to implement the action plan.

Ahead of this week's FATF meetings, government sources on Saturday said both the political and security establishment feel confident about pleading the Pakistan’s case on the basis of strong measures taken over the past few years while addressing the concerns raised by the FATF.

A source said that the government had taken many measures to address the concerns raised by the FATF but it was "unfortunate that [the] lease is being shown in the media".

"Just to highlight a few important steps, the people should know that all moveable and immoveable assets of Jamaatud Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have been taken over by the government through respective provinces. Similarly, the educational institutes and madressahs earlier run by these organisations are now being run by the provincial education ministries and such hospitals by the health ministries, respectively," the source had said.

He said that provincial governments had appointed administrators to monitor these institutions.

"For the first time, there is complete harmony between all law enforcement agencies and a comprehensive mechanism has been formulated to check and monitor individuals belonging to all banned organisations effectively," he had said.

Just days before the international watchdog takes up Pakistan’s request to remove it from a non-compliant list, a senior US diplomat also acknowledged that Islamabad had moved closer to meeting its commitments to combat terrorist financing.

On Wednesday, an anti-terrorism court convicted Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed and his aide Malik Zafar Iqbal in two terrorist financing cases and sentenced each to five and a half years of imprisonment.

The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs Alice G. Wells called the sentence "an important step forward" towards meeting Pakistan’s commitment to combat terrorist financing.