The FATF’s Messages

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Dr Qaisar Rashid

Since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, India had been evading bilateral talks on the pretext that terrorism should top the agenda of negotiations

On June 17, in Berlin, the plenary session of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) announced that Pakistan fully complied with its conditions (34 action items) and comprehensively reformed its system. Now, the process of removing Pakistan from the grey list could be started after fulfilling the last prerequisite: an on-site monitoring visit from the FATF delegation to validate Pakistan’s implementation of the reforms. Pakistan is hoped to be removed from the grey list by October 2022.
The grey list, an increased monitoring list, is troublesome for Pakistan’s economy teetering now on the edge of collapse. Pakistan has finally addressed all technical benchmarks and has completed all requirements of the FATF’s both action plans, for 2018 and 2021, the focus of which were on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) controls. Pakistan’s international isolation played its role. Further, Pakistan felt the cost of the economic squeeze, despite no visible economic sanctions. From 2018 to today, the FATF has oozed three main messages relevant to Pakistan.
First, the independence of countries is shared. That is, independence does not mean any country can do whatever it likes. Instead, co-existence is the formula for survival. In other words, independence is shared and not monopolized. Every country has to surrender some part of its independence to the United Nations (UN). When the UN designates some people and organizations as terrorists, every member country has to abide by the ruling. No escape, no shirking. The FATF came to rescue the UN and made it possible to implement the related UN resolutions. The FATF is now a vanguard organization of the UN.
Implications for Pakistan are that Pakistan cannot keep on doing anything or everything at its own sweet will, especially doing something which affects other countries. Instead, Pakistan has to respect the international framework of shared and compromised independence and be open to accountability. Pakistan has to educate its people to come to grips with the lesson.
Second, the era of proxy wars is over. No country can harbour terrorists and launch its surreptitious campaign to achieve its strategic objectives. With such prohibition, the era of achieving geostrategic objectives through a third party, called non-state actors, is also over. Non-state actors are now the bane of a country’s foreign and economic policies. A state can neither employ nor permit non-state actors to do its bidding.
Implications for Pakistan are that Pakistan has to do away with its proxies like Hafiz Saeed and the likes. For their utility, these proxies might be popular in certain circles promoting a secret holy war, the era of state-sponsored terrorism in whatever name is over. It is known that Pakistan became a prisoner in the hands of such holy warriors. Pakistan remained reluctant to abandon them. Further, under the excuse of doing philanthropic work, such people and their organizations became the recruiting grounds of combatants. They ran parallel armies and assumed sizes bigger than Pakistan’s. Pakistan remained hesitant to rein them in. Moreover, pan-Islamism is no more relevant physically. The inspiration caused a self-inflicted wound. The FATF singled out Pakistan for terror-supporting and financing, especially across the border. It was unfortunate that despite having a huge regular army to fight against an enemy and a giant team of diplomats to negotiate matters, Pakistan relied on proxies. Pakistan has to understand that economy is the mainstay, whether or not the prefix “geo-” is attached to it. Economic objectives have to be pursued.
Third, every country has to be a responsible country. Every country is responsible for developing a structure and system to curb money laundering, especially that supporting terrorism. There is no scope of imprudence or prevarication. No country can take refuge in the excuse that it has no capability of establishing a required structure and system of surveillance.
Implications for Pakistan are that it has to persist with the comprehensive reforms it has undertaken and keep on performing without fail. Pakistan has to keep on abiding by the AML-CFT regimes to meet the global standards of practice and compliance. Moreover, the Cold War mentality to act as a scavenger for monetary gains in a war between two countries should be over. No need to wait for the next cold war to get some financial share. Get integrated with the international financial system and stand on your own two feet.
Generally speaking, Pakistan is back to square one. Certain strategists in Pakistan kept on desecrating publicly the sanctity and validity of the Simla Agreement of 1972. In Pakistan, there is found a condemnable tendency to repudiate bilateral agreements signed by civilian governments. However, if a military dictator does an agreement, all praise is showered on him. On Tv talk shows, as security analysts, retired military officers are found ridiculing agreements signed by civilian governments. Such critics mislead the viewers and promote trends in society inimical to agreements.
Since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, India had been evading bilateral talks – which were otherwise mandatory under the Simla agreement – on the pretext that terrorism should top the agenda of negotiations. India had been demanding that the issue of terrorism should be resolved before discussion proceeded to the next item on agenda, Kashmir. India wanted either the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks handed over to it or they be punished for the heinous crime. Pakistan kept on refusing to fulfil the demand. On this account, bilateral talks remained ineffectual to the extent that the talks were forsaken.
In June 2018, the FATF put Pakistan on the grey list. India cashed in on the situation and abrogated Article 370 (and Article 35 A) of its constitution to change the status of its part of Kashmir in August 2019. Nevertheless, through the FATF, India’s demand from Pakistan to penalize the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks has been fulfilled. Now, after getting out of the grey list in October this year, Pakistan would have an opportunity to restart bilateral negotiations to discuss the Kashmir issue in light of the Simla Agreement. Doing so and convincing India to reverse its acts on Kashmir would be a herculean task.