Pakistan given ‘most challenging’ FATF plan, says Azhar

Updated 26 Oct 2020

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Federal minister for industries and production Hammad Azhar addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File
Federal minister for industries and production Hammad Azhar addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: The government’s point man on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Hammad Azhar, said on Sunday that Pakistan was focusing on implementation of all recently-enacted laws to come out of the grey list of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

Mr Azhar, who is federal minister for industries and production, also said that parliament had passed the laws not only for the last week’s evaluation in the FATF’s three-day plenary, but also for the next year’s evaluation.

He observed that one of the two actions plans given to Pakistan by the FATF was the “most challenging” and “comprehensive ever given to any country”.

“Pak is undergoing 2 action plans at FATF. One being the most challenging & comprehensive ever given to any country,” Mr Azhar said in a Twitter posting. “Laws passed through parl [parliament] focus on both Oct evaluation & upcoming evaluation planned mid next year. These laws reflect clearance of back log of last 10 years.”

While Mr Azhar said that the coming evaluation was planned for “mid next year”, the FATF’s next plenary is due on Feb 21-26, 2021.

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

“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 Paris-based watchdog said in statement, adding: “The FATF takes note of the significant progress made on a number of action plan items.”

Mr Azhar, who on Saturday had termed the FATF’s “consensus decision” a “diplomatic victory” for the government, said that the watchdog had hailed Pakistan’s legal efforts as a “role model” for other countries to follow.

“During plenary, Pak legal effort hailed as role model for other countries to follow,” he tweeted.

In another tweet, he said that the parliamentary committee in its meetings had discussed the “interplay of two evaluations” and requirements of laws in detail. “GoP now focusing on implementation of these laws for effectiveness evaluation planned ahead,” he said.

Only last month, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had got three laws — the Anti-Money Laundering (second amendment) Bill-2020, Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) (third amendment) Bill-2020 and Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill-2020 — passed in a joint sitting of the parliament to fulfil legal requirements of the FATF.

A statement issued by Pakistan Embassy in Washington said since June 2018, when the country made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the Asia/Pacific Group to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies, Islamabad’s continued political commitment had led to progress in a number of areas in its action plan.

These include: taking action to identify and sanction illegal Money or Value Transfer Services (MVTS), implementing cross-border currency and bearer negotiable instruments controls, improving international cooperation in terrorist financing (TF) cases, passing amendments to the ATA to increase the sanctioning authority, financial institutions implementing targeted financial sanctions and applying sanctions for AML/CFT violations, and controlling facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons and entities.

The FATF statement mentioned four areas where more work is needed to overcome strategic deficiencies.

“Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by demonstrating that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities; by demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

“[By] demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all [UNSC resolutions No] 1267 and 1373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, preventing the raising and moving of funds including in relation to NPOs [Non-Profit Organisations], identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services; and by demonstrating enforcement against TFS [Targeted Financial Sanctions] violations, including in relation to NPOs, of administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases.”

Anwar Iqbal from Washington contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2020