While appreciation compliance on 21 points of the action plan to curb money laundering and terror financing, the plenary session of Financial Action Task Force decide to keep Pakistan on greylist till February 2021 and asked it to show compliance on the remaining six points. Pakistan was placed on the greylist for the second time on account of its weaker anti-money laundering and counterterrorism regimes. It was first put on this list in 2012.
The plenary session of the international financial watchdog was scheduled for June this year but has to be postponed to October. Hence the review of Pakistan’s performance report was deferred till October, regarding action on the remaining 13 points of action plan to make robust its anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorism financing regimes (CTF).
Granting unexpected leash of five months was necessitated by the global coronavirus pandemic and the watchdog decided to give more time to Pakistan to remove the existing deficiencies in its AML and CTF regimes. It turned out a blessing in disguise, which enabled the PTI government to make the required legislations for strengthening the AML and CFT regimes and make progress on the remaining points included in FATF action plan.
Ironically, the oppositions demonstrated an attitude of noncooperation on FATF plan. It was really detrimental to national interest and against soft image of the country that lawmakers of opposition political parties ganged up in Senate and blocked the passage of Anti-money laundering Second (Amendment) Bill and Islamabad (ICT) Waqaf Properties Bill. A senior PML-N leader and member National Assembly, Ahsan Iqbal labeled these legislations tantamount to imposing fascism on the country. On the contrary, the latest decision of FATF plenary emphasise follow up legal measures on the basis of legislations done for curbing the twin menace of money laundering and terror financing in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions. On rejection vote in Senate, Prime minister Imran Khan had to say that opposition wanted Pakistan to be blacklisted. Earlier, in a tweet, Information Minister said that opposition had tried to make a bargain during negotiation with government on FATF related legislations. Later, the government succeeded to pass the legislations in the joint sitting of the parliament.
Pakistan has been asked to remove the strategic deficiencies in four areas. These include identification of wide range of terror financing activities by law enforcing agencies to target the designated entities and persons and those who work on their behalf; result oriented prosecution against the designated entities and persons; and implementation of financial sanctions against all in accordance with the provisions of UNSC resolutions 127 and 1373 that pertain to the raising and movement of funds by nonprofit organisations, their funds freezing and prohibiting access to financial services in addition to taking administrative actions and imposing criminal penalties on them.
There is no iota of doubt that India had done a lot of manipulations during the Asia Pacific Group (APG) Scrutiny meetings and FATF plenary to move Pakistan to blacklist. The questions asked by the Indian media from FATF President Marcus Pleyer at a virtual press conference amply confirm it. In response to a question by a journalist from India Today, Paleyer said that FATF members decided by consensus that Pakistan needed to work on the outstanding six items before the watchdog body would consider paying an “on-site-visit” to review Pakistan’s progress on ground. To another question, he told that after “on-site-visit” by an assessment team Pakistan’s case shall be reviewed in FATF plenary meeting to decide as to whether it should be taken off the greylist, adding that before the plenary APG will review its progress on the remaining actionable items.
It is a herculean task to address the strategic deficiencies in the administrative and legal framework. Opposition will certainly oppose the measures that government wants to take against the designated entities and persons. They would rather capitalise on it. Let us hope national interest will take precedence over self interest.