'Proud of you': Former PM Imran hails FATF decision as accomplishment of Hammad Azhar-led committee

Published June 17, 2022
Former PM Imran Khan with PTI leader Hammad Azhar. — PTI social media/File
Former PM Imran Khan with PTI leader Hammad Azhar. — PTI social media/File

Members of the former PTI cabinet hailed on Friday the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) announcement that Pakistan had met all 34 items on two separate action plans.

The watchdog will now schedule an on-site visit to verify the implementation and sustainability of the country's money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures, adding that Pakistan will be taken off the grey list if it successfully passes the on-site visit.

Soon after the development, former prime minister Imran Khan said "FATF repeatedly praised the work and political will my govt demonstrated".

He said when his government came to power [in 2018], it faced the "direct prospect of blacklisting" by the body, adding that the country's compliance history with the FATF was also not favourable.

"I constituted a FATF Coordination Committee headed by key minister Hammad Azhar. The committee had representation from all government departments and security agencies relevant to our FATF action plan. The officers worked day and night in the first instance to avoid blacklisting.

"FATF repeatedly praised the work and the political will my government demonstrated. We not only averted blacklisting, but also completed 32 out of 34 action items. We submitted a compliance report on the remaining two items in April based on which FATF now declared Pakistan's Action Plan as completed," he said.

Imran expressed confidence that the FATF's on-site visit would also be a success. He lauded Azhar, saying the former energy minister, members of his FATF coordination committee and relevant officers had "performed exceptionally well".

"The whole country is proud of you," he said.

Hammad Azhar, who was the former energy minister and also the government's top coordinator for efforts on anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing over the past four years, hailed the FATF's acknowledgment of Pakistan's compliance as "a great landmark".

In a tweet, Azhar said FATF rated Pakistan compliant on all 34 action items.

"Only 2 action items were outstanding and based on compliance done during Oct-March period, they have been cleared too. All countries that exit grey list undergo onsite visits as per the procedure."

Meanwhile, PTI leader and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi credited the PTI and ex-PM Imran Khan for "the achievement", recalling the country was put on the grey list during the PML-N's tenure in 2018.

He said FATF had declared both action plans complete whose compliance report was submitted by the PTI government in March.

Earlier today, Azhar had shared a picture of himself standing with officers, saying that Pakistan's hard work on completing the 34-action items was a result of the "teamwork of officers that worked day and night in different government departments. They are the real heroes!"

Prior to the announcement, PTI's Senator Ejaz Chaudhry had expressed hope that Pakistan would exit the grey list, terming it the result of the Imran Khan-led government's work.

Meanwhile, the PML-N's official Twitter account criticised the PTI government for diplomatically isolating Pakistan due to which it faced various economic sanctions.

It added that now, however, the nations of the world had agreed to restore relations and the world's confidence in Pakistan was being restored.

PPP leader and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar was questioned on how much credit she would give the PTI government for the development, to which she said: "Whoever wants to take credit can do so. Our job is to work for Pakistan, we will continue to work and we don't care about who gets the credit and who doesn't."

Responding to her statement, PTI leader and former information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, recalled that Khar was among those lawmakers who had refused to vote in favour of passing FATF-related bills in 2020 because "they said we will vote for these bills only if you end money laundering cases against Zardari and Sharif".

Earlier today, prior to the FATF's decision, Michael Kugelman, a scholar of South Asian affairs at the Wilson Centre, Washington, weighed in by putting the credit for any outcome squarely on the PTI government's shoulders.

"FATF’s evaluation of Pakistan’s efforts to complete its action plan for grey list removal mainly covered period when PTI was in power. So FATF decision today will be based on what was done in PTI era," he said.

He said the army could also "reasonably take credit, as I’m sure they would have been behind many of the actions taken to try to get Pakistan off the grey list". However, as for whether the Pakistan Democratic Movement, which contained many of the current coalition government parties, could take credit for the development, he responded with a succinct "no".

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