Pakistan close to exiting FATF watchdog’s ‘grey list’

Global watchdog says Islamabad completed its action plansWill schedule on-site visit to verify implementation, sustainability of money laundering, counter-terrorism financing measures

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said on Friday that Pakistan had met all 34 items on two separate action plans, adding that the watchdog would now schedule an on-site visit to verify the implementation and sustainability of the country’s money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures before removing it from its increased monitoring list, also known as the grey list.

According to a statement by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, Pakistan has substantially completed all items on both its action plans, which showed that necessary political commitment was in place to sustain implementation and improvement in the future.

While announcing the watchdog’s decision, FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer acknowledged the reforms implemented by the country, saying “they are good for the stability and security of the country”.

He, however, added that “Pakistan is not being removed from the grey list today. The country will be removed from the list if it successfully passes the on-site visit”. Pleyer said Pakistan would have to ensure during the visit that it effectively tackled money laundering and funding of terrorist groups.

“Pakistan demonstrated that terror financing investigations and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups and that there is a positive upwards trend in the number of money laundering investigations and prosecutions being pursued in Pakistan, in line with Pakistan’s risk profile,” the watchdog’s written statement said. Pakistan also largely addressed its 2021 action plan ahead of the set times, it added. Soon after the development, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar congratulated the country, saying the international community had “unanimously” acknowledged the country’s efforts.

“Our success is the result of four years of a challenging journey. Pakistan reaffirms resolve to continue the momentum and give our economy a boost,” she said.

In a video message, Khar said now “our process of exiting the grey list as per the FATF procedure starts, according to which a technical evaluation team will be sent to Pakistan.”

“We will make all-out efforts to ensure that this team completes its work before October’s plenary cycle and we have told them that we will ensure their comfort and ease,” she said, adding that the process would come to an end in October.

PM hails team

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called the development a big success. He felicitated the nation and welcomed the announcement of the FATF that Pakistan had met all its conditions for exclusion from the grey list. He congratulated the government institutions, personalities and relevant team, and said their joint efforts bore fruit.

He appreciated the performance of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and the team of the Foreign Ministry. The PM said the efforts of the basic cell related to the FATF and of military and civil leadership included in it were praiseworthy, and the credit went to them for their work in this national endeavour.

The FATF decision came during a press conference after the conclusion of a four-day plenary session that began Tuesday in Berlin, Germany. Several politicians, mostly from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and journalists posted on social media that the FATF had removed Pakistan from the grey list. However, at the time, Hina Khar, who was leading Pakistan’s delegation in Berlin, cautioned that prejudging the outcome and speculative reporting should be avoided. She pointed out that a press conference would be held at the Foreign Ministry today (Saturday) in this regard.

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also called for an end to speculations about the plenary session’s outcomes, terming them inappropriate. Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018. An April 9 judgement by an anti-terrorism court in Lahore – through which it sent Lashkar-e-Tayyaba chief Hafiz Saeed to prison for 33 years on terrorism charges – could also help Pakistan get off the grey list.

Those who support the move to remove Pakistan from the list point out that the two cases that led to his imprisonment were filed by the Counter-Terrorism Department. In its last plenary, held in Paris in March this year, the FATF noted that “Pakistan has completed 26 of the 27 action items in its 2018 action plan”. The FATF encouraged Pakistan “to address, as soon as possible, the one remaining item – investigating terrorism financing and targeting” senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups.

For the latest plenary session, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had prepared a presentation for the FATF plenary, showing how Pakistan has completed all the 27 tasks that it was given.