The scourge of money laundering which started almost 32 years ago flourished in the successive oligarchic civilian governments and this licit business is still on. Law Minster Dr. Farogh Naseem and British Home Secretary Sajid Javed jointly announced a justice and accountability agreement between the United Kingdom and Pakistan aimed at repatriating “the looted wealth of the country.”The agreement– which will not target individuals but is a broader agreement between the two governments to collaborate for elimination of variety of crimes—was arrived during the British Home Secretary’s official visit of Islamabad.
British Home secretary assured that the UK will continue to help Islamabad in checking money laundering. He acknowledged that Pakistan has rendered a lot of sacrifices in the global war against terrorism. He described Pakistan as “trustworthy friend of the UK” and said elimination of corruption is a priority for both countries. “The aim of the agreement is to bring back the looted wealth of the country,” Shazad Akbar, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability said, adding, “The agreement on the exchange of convicted persons will also be renewed.
Meanwhile, the government has touched just the tip of the iceberg in a halfhearted crackdown on money changers in Peshawar. The sealing of currency market in the city area is a small step towards the implementation of a comprehensive 26 points action plan of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering and terror financing. In the Federal Investigation Agency led anti money laundering operation and amount 268 million, both in local and foreign currencies, was seized which is a peanut of the quantum of money laundering trade in one location. The illicit business of illegal money transfer through ‘Hundi’ and ‘Hawala’ is spread over all the settled and tribal districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. But the fact remains that bulk of the money laundering takes place through normal banking channels which the top management of state Bank of Pakistan did not dare to stop. Political and business elite indulge in money laundering by using fake foreign currency accounts. The ongoing investigation in Rs. 36 billion money laundering case against former President Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur and formation of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) by the Supreme Court in this regard points to this grim reality. The front-man of the former President Anwar Majeed of Omni Group of Companies, former President Summit Bank Hussain Lawai and two executives of Sindh bank And UBL are under FIA probe. Strenuous efforts will be required by this agency in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan to stop the transfer of untaxed money and ill-gotten wealth abroad through banking system.
The FATF action plan also envisages the tightening of counter terror financing regime which is a herculean task. Will the government show some spine to choke funding to proscribed organisations? Perhaps it will be difficult as the main opposition PML-N along-with its former allied regional parties will try to capitalize on this issue and will build pressure on the government which it may not stand. An exercise of mainstreaming some fourth schedule groups and personalities had already been done before the 2018 polls. The total compliance of 26 points FATF action plan is very essential to remove Pakistan from the grey-list failing which the country will be then moved to the black list, inviting international sanctions. Compliance of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolutions number 1267 and 1373 are binding on Pakistan as member country of the United Nations.