ISLAMABAD: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will meet on Monday to discuss and decide whether or not to keep Pakistan on the grey list, Dawn has learned from knowledgeable sources.
The virtual FATF plenary will be held in Paris from February 22 to 25 to consider cases of various countries on the grey list, including Pakistan, and decision will be made at the conclusion of the meetings.
In the last plenary held in October 2020, 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).
An official source close to these developments told Dawn on Saturday that Pakistan had already complied with the six recommendations and also submitted details to the FATF secretariat. The members would now evaluate Pakistan’s responses during the meeting, the source said, adding that Pakistan had made significant progress in legislation as well as its implementation.
Pakistan had submitted a detailed response in October 2020 to FATF. Even then, it demanded more from Islamabad. It is too early to say if this time again FATF may ask for more actions or the existing ones will be enough to remove Pakistan from the grey list. However, the decision would be taken after a consensus among the members, the source said.
Younus Khan, a senior Pakistani journalist based in Paris, told Dawn on WhatsApp that some European countries, especially the host France, had recommended to FATF to continue to keep Pakistan on the grey list and had taken the position that not all points had been fully implemented by Islamabad. Other European countries are also supporting France.
Mr Khan, who regularly follows FATF meetings, said France was not happy with the recent response of Islamabad on the cartoon issue. Pakistan has not even posted a regular ambassador in Paris, he said, adding that diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries were not up to the mark.
The United States has also expressed concern over the acquittal of one of the accused in Daniel Pearl murder case. It is feared that the US may also lobby for continuation of Islamabad on the grey list at least until June this year.
An official, who is not willing to be quoted, told Dawn that Pakistan had submitted a compliance report to FATF. “We can’t say what will be their response to it; let’s wait for the day.”
The official said Pakistan had already done major legislation regarding punishment of terror financing, which was around one year in the old legislation. “We have extended this punishment to five years,” the official said, adding that recently courts had also sentenced people under the new law.
The laws were amended last year to make punishment proportionate to the crime as recommended by FATF.
According to the official, FATF has appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan which has largely complied with the demands of the global watchdog. FATF commended the steps taken by Pakistan and said that progress had been made in terms of money laundering and terror financing, but Islamabad would have to ensure full implementation at all points.
Pakistan was focusing on the implementation of all recently enacted laws to come out of the grey list of FATF. In the last plenary, two action plans given to Pakistan by the watchdog were the “most challenging and comprehensive” ever given to any country.
In 2020, 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 parliament to fulfil the legal requirements of FATF.
In October 2020, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, who is the government’s point man on FATF, announced that Pakistan had made progress across all action plan items and had now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items.
When the minister was approached for comments on the implementation status of the remaining six recommendations, he said he would make no comment until the plenary was over and FATF published its statements. “There is a strict confidentiality rule,” he told Dawn via a WhatsApp message.
Background discussions with the relevant officials suggest that Pakistan is confident that it will come out of the grey list since it has taken action against various religious extremist parties and personalities and arrested and punished them. The accounts of various organisations have also been closed and people sentenced. All these actions were taken in the light of FATF’s recommendations.
FATF had placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2021