ISLAMABAD: A day after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) acknowledged Pakistan’s progress in implementing the plan of action, a junior foreign minister on Saturday cautioned against “premature celebrations”.
“Let’s not be overly celebratory right now,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told a news conference soon after her arrival from Germany.
Khar led a Pakistani delegation at the FATF plenary meeting held in Berlin which decided to send its team to Pakistan in order to verify actions and steps taken by the country to implement its action plan.
The “on-site” visit is seen as a step in the right direction that may eventually lead Pakistan to exit the grey list. Pakistan has been on the FATF watch list since June 2018 because of deficiencies in its systems to curb money laundering and terror financing.
“The process has started and the on-site visit is due, and even after that our journey will continue, the strengthening of legislation and administration will continue,” the statement further read.
But in its latest meeting, the FATF noted that Pakistan had made substantial progress that warranted an “on-site” visit. Nevertheless, the FATF president made it clear that Pakistan will only be removed from the grey list after the positive assessment of the team that would do the ‘on-site’ inspection.
Officials dealing with the issue believe that Pakistan’s needs to be cautious since it has to demonstrate to the visiting FATF team that all its actions are sustainable and irreversible. The focus of the FATF team will likely be on certain individuals who were convicted in different terror financing cases.
But despite a word of caution, the state minister was hopeful that Pakistan would successfully complete the final phase of the FATF process.
The reason for her optimism stemmed from the fact, in the minister’s own words, that the FATF had now acknowledged by a consensus that all action items had been largely addressed by Pakistan. “The 2018 Action Plan has been closed with no pendency of action on the part of Pakistan.”
On the 2021 Action Plan, which was mostly related to money laundering issues, Pakistan submitted three progress reports. “I am very pleased to announce that Pakistan has completed the entire seven-point Action Plan a year ahead of the prescribed timelines,” she noted.
She maintained that the swift pace and progress was indicative of the comprehensive reforms and actions that has been carried out by Pakistan in the AML/CFT domain and sustained momentum of our efforts. Pakistan’s positive and speedy progress was greatly appreciated and welcomed by the FATF members.
Consequent to the fruitful discussions held in the plenary, the FATF decided, by consensus, that Pakistan had addressed all technical benchmarks and had completed all requirements of the both Action Plans.
“As a result of this remarkable achievement, FATF has now authorised an on-site visit of its technical team to Pakistan to validate the process of implementation of reforms,” Khar said.
She went on to say that the successful completion of the FATF Action Plans and its formal endorsement by the FATF “means that Pakistan is one step away from exiting the grey list”.
“The on-site visit is a procedural requirement,” she said, adding, “It marks the beginning of the end-process that will eventually culminate in the exit of Pakistan from FATF’s grey list.”
Regarding the timing of the on-site visit, she said: “We are working closely with the FATF to arrange the on-site visit at mutually convenient dates with a view to conclude the entire process at the earliest and before the next FATF Plenary in October 2022.”
“I want to take this opportunity to stress once again that Pakistan’s cooperation with the FATF and the international community is grounded in our strategic objective of strengthening our economy and further improve its integration with the international financial system. I am confident that this good news from FATF will restore confidence in our economy, will give it a much-needed boost, and would improve investment climate.”
“I also want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our teams who worked day and night to achieve our objectives and completed FATF Action Plans. This was indeed a whole of country response. Multiple ministries, departments and agencies, at all levels of the Government have contributed to this national cause. It also demonstrates that when we work together with a sense of purpose we can achieve remarkable things.”
Answering a question, she said: “we are giving credit as I said to anyone who seeks it and deservedly so because this is not a certain political party agenda. This is Pakistan’s agenda. For us, we have to be mature about it. For us, it will be win-win if everybody considers they have stakes in this, so indeed the previous government has stakes in it.”