Is it professional incompetence?
The lack of political will to establish an integrated and professionally capable institutional frame work has created bottlenecks in the inevitable documentation to show Pakistan’s resolve of effectively curbing Money laundering and terrorism financing. The expected outcome is that the National Counter Terrorism Authority has shied away from taking the responsibility of preparing the crucial National Risk Assessment (NRA) Report, which is critical to demonstrating to the world that Pakistan is able to combat terror financing.
For genuine reasons and constraints, the country’s counter terrorism authority is unwilling to perform its national duty at a time when a team of Asia Pacific Group (APG) is arriving on a pre-assessment mission. Federal Investigation Agency FIA has also shown inability to prepare the required document. Earlier, it was responsible to do this job. Had the previous PML-N government shown the sincerity, sagacity and determination to implement points 4 and 6 of the National Action Plan, the situation would have been different and the possibility of putting Pakistan back on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) greylist in June would have been avoided. In its plenary session of February, the FATF gave a short leash of fourth months to the ruling leadership of Pakistan to put its house in order before the country is placed back on the greylist for a second time. Earlier it was put on this list in 2012 and was removed in 2015.
Instead of taking this decision of International Watchdog on money laundering and terrorism financing seriously, the previous government rejected it a politically motivated move of the United States supported by its European allies the UK, Germany and France. The United States had made it clear that the matter will not remain confined to merely putting Pakistan back on the greylist and more actions will also follow. Talking to reporters during a press briefing on February 17, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauret expressed concern over, what she called, Pakistan’s deficiencies in implementing anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws. She told that US has been concerned for a long time about actions of Pakistani authorities. “We have therefore decided to place Pakistan on international watch list,” said Ms Nauret. She hinted at some more likely punitive actions but did not disclose them. However, she did say that further details about the matter are confidential and can not be revealed at the moment.
Ironically, when the caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar was busy in FATF meeting in Paris a torpedo action took place in Pakistan. NACTA de-freezed the bank accounts of sectarian organisation to which an internationally banned terrorist outfit Lej is believed to be affiliated. NACTA took this action on the recommendation of home department of Punjab. The process undertaken for mainstreaming of organizations led by fourth schedulers before the recent general elections further dented the credibility of the country in the international community.
FATF has given Pakistan 15 months to prove that the country remains compliant to Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing framework. The NRA Report is the most vital document for proving to the world that Pakistan is committed to global efforts to curb terrorism financing and anti-money laundering laws. Information on its national risk assessment of terrorism and terrorism financing is also needed to evaluate that Pakistan is keen to implement the United Nations Security Council resolutions numbers 1267, 1373 and 2368.
Being put back on the greylist would tighten Pakistan’s risk profile and important financial institutions will be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and other counterparts. Others might choose to avoid it altogether, viewing the legal risks associated with doing business might outweigh the economic benefits. NACTA has been neglected in the allocations of budget. The previous government approved peanut allocations of RS.170 million against the demand of Rs. 1.046 billion for the current fiscal. It received Rs. 143 million in 2017-18 and a revised budgetary allocation of 1.559 million in 2016-17. This shows the non-serious attitude of the political leadership towards combating terrorism and curbing money laundering. The FIA notices issued to former President Asif Zardari and, his sister Faryal Talpur and the arrest of Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and UBL executives for laundering Rs.35 billion through fake bank accounts reveals the insatiable lust of Pakistani political class for this illegal activity which has brought a misnomer for the country in the comity of nations.