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FATF trouble still continues

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The Financial Action Task Force has given Pakistan another four months to meet the remaining 13 out of a total of 27 actions pertaining to counter money laundering and terrorist financing. The government must now sincerely look at all the obstacles in the way of meeting the global body’s anticipation and ensure that these are removed as early as possible. Pakistan needs to make substantial and maintainable progress especially in prosecuting and criminalizing terror financing, and should such advancement not be made, the watchdog would take action. Pakistan enjoys the help of the US in delivering a peace plan for Afghanistan and has an ally in China that is the president of the watchdog body. It is evident the danger of blacklisting has not destroyed, and the authorities are still battling to execute the entire action plan. It is right time to for the government to make clear where the operational difficulties are there and accelerate its efforts to satisfy FATF demands. Without this, Pakistan’s progress will never be considered as sufficient.
The Financial Action Task Force has decided to maintain Pakistan’s position on its ‘grey list’ of countries with insufficient control over restricting money laundering and terrorism financing until June. Pakistan made phenomenal progress in the enforcement of the 27-point FATF Action Plan, which was depicted by the completion of nine further action items. FATF discussed achievement made by Pakistan towards enforcement of the Action Plan. Recognizing measures taken by Pakistan towards implementation of plan and lauding its high-level political promise FATF pointed out the need for further actions for completing the Action Plan by June 2020. The government stands committed for taking all necessary action and a scheme in this regard has been developed and is being implemented. The FATF after the Paris meeting said it urged Pakistan to hurriedly complete its complete action plan by June 2020.The watchdog did take into account recent worthwhile improvements made by Pakistan, saying the country has, to date mainly considered 14 out of 27 action items, with different levels of progress made on the remaining of the action plan. With a minimum of three votes by FATF members needed to avoid the organization’s blacklist. Pakistan has been able to escape punishment due to support from China and other friendly countries including Malaysia and Turkey. The watchdog will next review of Pakistan’s progress in June. Pakistan is already putting final touches to amendments to many laws to meet the FATF requirements by June. Targets have been set for additional legislation to improve about 12-13 laws and lesser legislation to finish the overall legal framework in line with the FATF standards. The Chinese foreign ministry had said that a large number of FATF members had acknowledged Pakistan’s wholehearted efforts to enhance its counter-terrorism financing regime at the financial watchdog’s latest entire meeting. It was decided at the meeting that Pakistan will be permitted to get more time to continue implementing its action plan. The statement by the Chinese government came few hours ahead of the FATF decision regarding Pakistan’s destiny on the watchdog’s grey list. Indian media reported that China had changed its position at FATF to no longer support Pakistan, China stated that its position on the pertinent issue remains not changed. It affirms that the object and aim of the FATF is to support countries’ efforts to advance institutions against money laundering and terror financing and protect the international financing system. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh in a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing welcomed the Chinese government for their huge support in the FATF meetings. China and other friendly and sincere countries have supported Pakistan throughout the FATF process relating to guiding the country to strengthen its frameworks.
Pakistan was bottomed on the FATF grey list in June 2018 and was forwarded a plan of action to complete by October 2019 or face the chance of being placed on the blacklist along with Iran and North Korea. In October 2019, the FATF determined to keep Pakistan on its grey list till February, giving it time to execute the 27-point action plan. The working group directed Islamabad to take more steps for complete eradication of terror financing and money laundering while voicing serious concerns over the lack of improvement in tackling terror financing risks. The FATF met again in January this year in Beijing where Pakistan provided a list of actions taken to execute the action plan. Both the political and security establishment felt positive about pleading Pakistan’s case on the root cause of strong measures taken over the past few years while expressing the worries raised by the FATF. A few days before the FATF verdict, a senior US diplomat also agrees that Islamabad had moved closer to meeting its promises to stop terrorist financing. An anti-terrorism court in Lahore convicted Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed and his assistant Malik Zafar Iqbal in two terrorist financing cases and sentenced them to five-and-a-half years of imprisonment each. The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs Alice G. Wells called the sentence a significant movement forward towards meeting Pakistan’s promise to fight terrorist financing.