Some good news

Published June 18, 2022

THAT Pakistan has finally got the assurance of an on-site visit from the FATF to verify the “implementation and sustainability of the country’s money-laundering and counterterrorism financing measures” before it is formally removed from the task force’s increased monitoring (grey) list, is the best outcome we could have hoped for from the current review.

It means that Pakistan should be removed from the grey list in October once the on-site inspection is conducted.

In its recent Berlin plenary, the global money-laundering and terrorist-financing watchdog has made its initial determination that Pakistan has substantially completed two action plans, complying with all 34 items, noting that this showed that the “necessary political commitment remains in place to sustain implementation and improvement in the future”.

According to the watchdog: “Pakistan demonstrated that terror-financing investigations and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups and that there is a positive upwards trend in the number of money-laundering investigations and prosecutions being pursued in Pakistan... .”

This assessment of Pakistan’s efforts to exit the grey list is primarily based on the extensive work done by the previous PTI government to simultaneously complete two challenging action plans given to it for compliance to avoid being blacklisted.

Yet it will be unfair to not give credit to the coalition government for using diplomatic channels to help the country exit the list. There are reports that China had recently been working quietly to help Islamabad on this front.

Read: There and back again — a timeline of Pakistan's unfortunate 'grey listing' by FATF

Many believe that the decision also indicates tacit US support. If true, it means that we are now closer to the restoration of the IMF bailout, even if not there yet. Once formally removed from the list, the country will see its credit rating improve, giving confidence to foreign investors.

That several actions implemented over the last four years wouldn’t have been possible without the military’s consent shows the army has remained supportive of the civilian efforts to exit the list.

Last but not the least, the conviction of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed on terrorism-related charges must also have strengthened Pakistan’s case.

No matter how encouraging it is, Pakistan’s success in meeting FATF’s anti-money-laundering and antiterrorist-financing standards in an exceptionally short time frame, despite the efforts of certain foreign powers to get the country blacklisted, should not make the authorities complacent as had been the case previously.

We have been on the grey list thrice since 2008. Being downgraded to that list again would do irreparable damage to the economy and international trade. It is, therefore, hoped that the nation’s civilian and military leadership will continue to show the highest level of political commitment to address the leftover deficiencies in the country’s AML/CFT regime, and carry on the good work to update and strengthen the relevant laws, regulations and procedures in the months and years to come.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2022

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