Still more time on FATF grey list


I t is disappointing that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list for another four months. The decision is all the more surprising because the watchdog has been all praise for Islamabad’s efforts to comply with the demands of the anti-money laundering and combating financing terrorism (AML/CFT) action plan throughout the process, including the meeting after which FATF decided for some reason to keep Pakistan on the increased monitoring (grey) list. It seems we still need to do more to meet three out of a total of 27 action points that are still outstanding. These have to do with terror financing (TF) and demonstrating that designated terrorists and terrorist outfits are apprehended and prosecuted as well as implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists and those acting on their behalf.
Yet these steps are included in the reforms that the government has undertaken since June 2018, when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to work with FATF and the Asia Pacific Group to strengthen the international AML/CFT regime. FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer also categorically ruled out any chance of putting Pakistan on the black list because it had not just agreed to complete the action plan and remained committed to it but also “shown progress on all counts.” But that automatically begs the most obvious question of why keep the country on the grey list for a few more months even though it has clearly complied with all that was demanded; and that too at a pace much faster than realistically expected.
The government must not leave out the possibility of lobbying on the part of other states, particularly India, to influence the final result. It is not even an open secret that Delhi did what it could to get Islamabad blacklisted and now it seems that since those efforts failed it is still doing what it can to keep us on the grey list, at least, for as long as possible because of the obvious financial damage it does to the country. Research published recently by an independent think tank, Tabadlab, suggests that Pakistan has suffered a loss of approximately $38 billion because of the grey-listing. This is a travesty especially considering that Pakistan is suffering from a lingering Balance of Payments (BoP) crisis and needs all the money it can save.
The foreign office must, therefore, mobilise immediately and investigate if foreign lobbying is indeed behind the apparent paralysis in the decision-making body at FATF. If so, which is more likely than not, then it must do some effective lobbying of its own to put the real facts of the matter in plain light for everybody to see.