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Pakistan’s FATF Conundrum

Seen from Islamabad, the FATF whitelist looks more and more like a moving goalpost

Pakistan had its sights firmly set on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) whitelist. Everything was on track, we were told;the goal was within reach – until it was not: Following a three-day virtual meeting last month, the FATF committee acknowledged the fulfilment of 21 out of the 27 conditions put forth, but refused to take the country off the grey list. While Pakistani officials hope for a reprieve sooner rather than later, FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer has reiterated the need for Pakistan to fulfil the remaining six conditions before an on-site visit can be approved. “… the members decided by consensus that Pakistan needs to complete these six items for an onsite visit to be granted”, Dr Pleyer said. “As soon as the plenary decides that Pakistan has completed all the 27 items, then an onsite visit will be made”.

It is only after this visit that the final decision to exempt Pakistan from the grey list can be made.

Why Pakistan is finding it hard to come off the white list despite consistent attempts? There appears to be no simple answer to the question. “Perhaps there is more to the matter than meets the eye?” an official speaking on condition of anonymity told TTI.

It is important to understand the implications of the listing decisions. In case of blacklisting, the country is considered a high-risk jurisdiction subject to a call for action. The blacklisted country may face economic sanctions along with other prohibitive measures that are enforced by the member states of the FATF as well as other international organizations.

Blacklisting by FATF is seen as conclusive evidence of a country’s

inadequacy to curb money laundering and terror financing. Because it is on the grey list, blacklisting hangs over Pakistan like the sword of Damocles. However, Turkey and Malaysia are said to have extended solid assurances to help keep Pakistan off the scroll of ignominy in case things go berserk.

While the FATF has no direct role in investigation, it acts as a strong monitoring force which keeps a strict eye on the occurrences within each country. On the upside, Pakistan has successfully demonstrated that terror financing prosecutions in the country result in effective,proportion- ate, and dissuasive sanctions. It has been able to enforce effective implementation of financial sanctions against most of the designat- ed terrorists, preventing them from raisingand transferring funds, identifying and freezing their movable and immovable assets as well as demonstrating strict enforcement against terror financing violations of all kinds.

However, apparently we need to work harder to put our house in order before we can sway the lobbies holding up the decision to whitelist Pakistan.

Meanwhile, it will be constructive to remember that while friendly countries may help Pakistan keep its nose above the surface, it is up to the country itself to crawl out of the soup.

The authorities would do well to realise that the sooner Pakistan extricates itself from this ugly situation, the better it will be for the progress and prosperity of the nation and for the peace and develop- ment of the country.

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