Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held its plenary session yesterday on 23rd October 2020 in which it was decided that Pakistan will remain on the FATF Grey list. This decision has come after Pakistan failed to comply with the 27-points parameter set up by FATF. It was declared that Pakistan had been able to achieve 21 out of 27 parameters but still needs to work on the remaining six points. The FATF president Marcus Pleyer said that Pakistan has made considerable progress but it still needs to do more.

Pakistan will remain on a terrorism financing watch list until and unless it will completely fulfill the preventive guidelines given by FATF. It will have to improvise its financial control policies. FATF has appreciated Pakistan for development in this field but has urged it to make more strenuous efforts to complete the 27 parameters given by the global financial watchdog.

During the FATF session, Pakistan’s close ally Turkey urged the other member states to take into consideration Pakistan’s good work and progress. Moreover, Turkey suggested that FATF should send off an on-site team to conclude their assessment tasks related to Pakistan rather than waiting for the completion of the remaining six out of the 27 parameters. Factually, the on-site teams of FATF can only be dispatched after the given jurisdictions complete their Action Plans given by FATF. The visit by an on-site team from FATF is an official indication for the exit from FATF’s grey or black list.

However, none of the 38 members of FATF endorsed this idea of Turkey for dispatching on-site teams to Pakistan. These members also included Pakistan’s closest allies like China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. And with their disapproval, the idea of on-site teams for Pakistan has currently gone off the table. FATF has decided to retain Pakistan on the grey list at least till the next review for grey lists which is due in February 2021.

Pakistan was able to secure an extra four months to complete the FATF plan after missing 13 out of 27 points parameter set for it in 2018 when Pakistan had been formally added to the grey list. The bounce tenure was further extended for Pakistan due to the novel covid-19 pandemic. Apart from Pakistan, several other countries were put in FATF’s grey list in February 2020. These included Albania, Iceland, Mongolia, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Panama, Uganda, Syria, Mauritius, Cambodia, Ghana, Botswana, Barbados, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. In yesterday’s session, Iceland and Mongolia were removed from the grey list. Citing their removal, FATF officials said that they have no specific discrimination against Pakistan.

After yesterday’s plenary session, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the adversary India for lobbying against Pakistan to downgrade it towards the hostile Blacklist of FATF. The Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar termed the decision of FATF as a diplomatic victory for Pakistan. He proudly stated that Pakistan has made a remarkable progress in the 27-points parameter plan by FATF since February 2020. He also dismissed the false and baseless information making rounds about negative voting and abstention in the meeting.

Pakistan’s powerful army is often blamed for providing safe havens to fighters in order to use them as proxies against India and neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been constantly struggling to stamp out the threats from armed groups. He has also been under immense pressure over harsh measures taken to rectify a damaged economy and comply to the terms of the latest International Monetary Fund IMF’s bailout.

Pakistan had taken certain steps after February 2020 including tightening its anti-terror financing laws. In late July 2020, both houses of parliament passed two time-bound FATF bills, including the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020, and the United Nations (Security Council) Amendment Bill 2020. Coming off the grey list will substantially nurture Pakistan’s position in the world and diminish the threat that has been hanging like a sword around its economy.

The manner in which these bills were passed were concerning. The bills and amendments to these laws were suggested by a Senate panel and were discussed in a behind-the-scenes meeting by the government and the leading Opposition parties namely PML-N and PPP. Then the National Assembly had given its usual response to the FATF related bills that was to rubber-stamp the bills. The proposed law would have allowed any citizen to be detained for up to 180 days, on instructions by committees manned by intelligence agency personnel.

 FATF can be said to have enforced Pakistan and highly compel it to carry out a crackdown on the violent and extreme terror groups operating within its premises. These terrorist groups have long inserted themselves into the warp and weft of the society. The bills and amendments like those passed by the parliament in late July 2020 seem like the only viable path ahead for Pakistan in this context. The idea that these terrorist groups can be contained is unimaginative and unsound. These extremist clans only swallow their host nations by bribing its youth and destroying their future. Furthermore, they do not functionalize in silos. Even if these terror groups operate strategically and not directly carry out terrorist activities, their presence is still damaging for a country.

Ever since FATF has hoisted the flag of strategic deficiencies on Pakistan related to its financial policies and system for anti-terrorism, Pakistan has narrowed down its territory for the right-wing groups. In March 2019, hundreds of madressahs, schools, and mosques run by the Jamaatud Dawa and Jaish-e-Muhammed were taken up by the provincial governments. Furthermore, the Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested by Pakistan’s government on the charges of terror financing. United States of America had also announced a $10 million bounty for his arrest. In February 2020, he was sentenced for five years for nurturing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Actions, bills and strategies like these are small little steps towards the betterment of Pakistan’s global image. Although there is a still long road ahead of Pakistan for being a completely anti-terror country, but FATF’s decision to keep it on the grey list for just a few more months is a ray of hope for Pakistan in the dark world of terror fostering.

By Ali Asad

The author is doing M. Phil in Public Policy and Governance. He is working  as a freelancer. Previously worked with HubPages and Washington Post.

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