THE decision taken by the Financial Action Task Force to keep Pakistan on the grey list until June, despite the country making significant progress on the recommended actions, has disappointed many. There are examples where other nations were taken off the list of countries under enhanced monitoring by the global watchdog although they did far less than Islamabad which worked hard to tighten its anti-terror-financing and money-laundering controls over the last two years.

Pakistan has complied with 24 out of the 27 actions suggested by the FATF. One hopes that it acts vigorously in the remaining areas to be taken off the grey list soon. The FATF announcement that Pakistan has made “significant progress” even if some “serious deficiencies” remain in the mechanisms to eliminate terror financing, and the government’s view that the country would not be put on the blacklist again, has been a ray of hope for all concerned.

At the same time, the FATF decision should jolt the authorities out of their complacency. There is no option but to work quickly and show progress on the rest of the FATF action plan. Even though doing so will not be easy for the state, it is clear that unlike previously, the world wants complete compliance with the global body’s exacting standards this time around. The FATF president’s statement that the watchdog will verify the completed actions and members of the task force would vote (to remove Pakistan from the list of countries on the grey list) “as soon as they improve their investigations and prosecutions of all groups and entities financing terrorists and their associates and show [that] penalties by courts are effective” underlines this new reality.

It goes without saying that complete compliance will bring its own dividends for the economy. The increasing inflow of remittances through legal channels is only one of the many economic benefits that Pakistan stands to reap from adopting global standards on illicit financing.

Last but not the least, the battle to stay out of the grey list in future will not end once Pakistan is taken off it. There is bound to be a tough struggle for a much longer time until the world learns to look upon this country as a responsible and trustworthy partner in the international fight against terrorism. The end of the endeavour to get off this list is in sight and the country must leave no stone unturned to reach its goal.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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