PPP, govt in war of words over FATF outcome

Updated 25 Oct 2020

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PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman alleged that the FATF decision was the res­ult of the “slipshod and obv­i­ously done in” law drafting and lack of homework. — File photo
PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman alleged that the FATF decision was the res­ult of the “slipshod and obv­i­ously done in” law drafting and lack of homework. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The opposition PPP has sought an “explanation” from the government over its “failure” to get Pakistan removed from the grey list of the Fin­ancial Action Task Force, but the government has ter­med the FATF’s “consensus decision” to keep the country on the grey list for another four months a “diplomatic victory” for it.

The Pakistan Peoples Par­ty (PPP) alleged that the FATF decision was the res­ult of the “slipshod and obv­i­ously done in” law drafting and lack of homework.

“Why did they (the government functionaries) not get their homework done on time? The news from FATF insiders is that the law drafting is slipshod and obviously done in. Why did they not look at everything in good time? They were too busy managing a constant anti-opposition narrative which seems to be their only task,” PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said in a statement on Saturday.

She said it seemed that the real FATF requirements were skipped and half the exercise was used “as an excuse to pass draconian laws to target the opposition”.

“It is shocking to see ministers giving congratulatory messages when our country is still on the grey list,” Ms Rehman said in an apparent reference to a tweet by Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar in which he had “congratulated the federal and provincial teams” which, according to him, had “worked day and night even during the pandemic to ensure this turnaround”.

The FATF had announced on Friday that Pakistan would continue to remain on its grey list for another four months till February 2021 for six out of 27 unmet action plan targets on anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing of terrorism (CFT).

The decision had been announced by FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer while addressing a virtual news conference at the conclusion of a three-day plenary of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog in Paris.

“To date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items. As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021,” the watchdog said in a statement. “The FATF takes note of the significant progress made on a number of action plan items,” it added.

The next plenary is due on Feb 21-26.

Pakistan has welcomed the outcome, saying “this is indicative of the confidence of the FATF on the efforts of Pakistani government”.

However, Ms Rehman said the government “must give an explanation for why it did not manage to get Pakistan removed from the grey list.”

“It really is not rocket science. It’s been done before quite smoothly and could have been done again, if only the government (functionaries) did not look and behave like the governance amateurs they are,” Ms Rehman said.

She alleged that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government bulldozed egregious laws, disrespected the parliament and got these laws passed which were not even required by the FATF.

“What did they get out of it? There are still six action points remaining that need to be completed,” she said, adding that the global watchdog had asked the government to implement a plan of action by the end of 2019, which was later extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Despite that we made no significant progress. Instead of witch-hunting the opposition, the government should have focused on meeting the FATF’s demands,” she added.

Ms Rehman said Pakistan was removed from the grey list earlier when terrorism was a bigger threat in the region.

“We had Pakistan removed from several lists without any of this circus, when conditions on the ground were actually tougher. If we helped in changing laws it was for Pakistan, nothing else. They make cheap points on every conversation, without maturity or foresight,” she went on saying.

The PPP senator concluded by saying that after all that bulldozing of laws in the parliament and polarisation of the country, the government had not been able to meet the technical compliance standards.

Meanwhile, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, who led the Pakistani delegation to the virtual plenary, on Saturday termed “FATF’s consensus decision” to keep Pakistan on its grey list for another four months a “diplomatic victory” for the government.

“FATF has acknowledged our high-level political commitment and significant progress,” he said through his official social media account on Twitter.

The minister regretted that some circles were propagating “false and baseless information about abstention or negative voting in the meeting”.

Some social media posts had claimed on Friday that a few countries, including Afghanistan and India, voted against Pakistan at the FATF plenary and some others, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, abstained from the vote.

The minister, however, clarified that no voting criteria was applied for the FATF decision. He said some countries mentioned in the “fake news” were not even members of the FATF.

“Pakistan enjoys broad international support and cooperation on FATF,” he added.

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri had already rejected “false media reports” regarding Saudi Arabia’s role in the FATF plenary, saying Pakistan and the Kingdom “enjoy strong fraternal ties.”

The industries minister had claimed on Friday that “blacklisting Pakistan is now off the table.”

The FATF had formally placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after a push from India supported by the US, the UK and some other European countries. Pakistan then committed to a 27-point action plan, but failed to meet deadlines.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2020