US offer of closer cooperation
In a media talk, top US diplomat Alice Wells dwelt at length on a number of issues including human rights situation in the Indian held Kashmir, Afghan peace process, return of warmth in Pak-US relation and vistas of investment in Pakistan and possible diplomatic support to get it out the FATF black list, a decision that may be taken in the plenary session of this global watch-dog on money laundering and terrorism financing in April. She described the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President and President Donald Trump warm and constructive, referring to the restoration of Military Education and Training programmes.
Alice wells hinted at expanding cooperation in different sectors of the economy by making investment on concessionary terms as compared with other countries in agriculture, energy and facilitating greater access to the US market for exports from Pakistan. She repeated her critical stance on CPEC debt and emphasised for giving opportunities to American companies in construction of mega development, which will ensure greater opportunities if jobs to the local talent and help create wealth in a transparent manner.
Dropping a hint of likely diplomatic support to enable Pakistan to get off the FATF greylist, Ambassador Wells said that US is ready to assist Pakistan in compliance of all points of action plan regarding anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing. Pakistan has so far implemented 22 out of 27 points of FATF action plan to make strong its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regimes. A deadline of September, 2019 had been set for total implementation of the plan.
The history of Pak-Us relations tells about a number of phases alternating between warmth and coolness. It was always the United States that ditched Pakistan after realising its strategic goals in South Asia, be it the Cold War era or the one that started after the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet forces in December, 1979. After9/11 Pakistan took side with the US in its war on global terrorism but the attitude of the latter was a mix of warmth and suspicion, although the former had been given the status of non-NATO ally. There has been repeated demands of ‘do more’ notwithstanding the bitter fact that Pakistan losses were 70000 plus deaths of civilians and personnel of security forces in attrition to $100 billion losses to the economy.
In the Cold War era the US provided valuable assistance in many ways enabling Pakistan to start its process of economic development from scratches. It facilitated the signing of Indus Water Agreement between Pakistan and India and channelized bulk of the financial assistance in the shape of interest free grants and concessionary loans through World Bank and other multilateral donor agencies. It was the generous US economic assistance that Pakistan had been able to construct big storage dams and hydel power stations of Mangla and Tarbella in addition to Warsak dam on the River Kabul. The same level of financial assistance would have been extended to Pakistan through multilateral lending agencies if the elected ruling leadership had first not put Kalabagh dam on the backburner in the decade of 70s and then made poetically controversial in mid 80s. Hence the historically established argument of Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells that US companies invest in Pakistan in such a manner that excludes the element of corruption, create wealth and jobs, impart skill development and do not lay debt trap for the loans receiving country. If the offer of providing assistance in agriculture development and financing low capital expenditure and tariff clean energy projects, not like the coal based health hazardous and inflated tariff ridden Chinese thermal power project, does materialise then the prevailing cycle of secular stagflation in the economy can be broken.
It is not the first time that Pakistan is put on the grey list of FATF. Eelier, it was grey-listed in 2012 and removed in 2015. The United States was the principle mover of resolution in June 2018 plenary in Paris in which Pakistan’s putting on grey list was decided. Prior to this, a short leash of three months had been given to PML-N government to agree to measures for averting that decision. But the wizards of Nawaz Sharif governments, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Finance Minister Miftah Ismael spoiled the broth like too many cooks by issuing incendiary statement in a self-denial mode and for the sake of misplaced self-esteem.
PTI government has succeeded in implementing majority of points of FATF action plan to clear the mess created by two previous elected governments. However, it does not have the parliamentary strength in the parliament to amend the Nawa Sharif first government law, Protection of Economic Reforms Act July 1992 to further strengthen the regulatory powers of the central bank and Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan for effectively curbing money laundering and do legislation to build legal framework for buttressing the counterterrorism regime and reforming criminal justice system. Hopefully, the sincere measures taken so far will make a strong case for removing Pakistan from the FATF greylist.