‘No justification’ for FATF to keep Pakistan on grey list

Vehicles run past the Centaurus mall in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Reuters/File)
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  • Pakistan was placed on the FATF’s grey list of countries with weak and vulnerable financial systems that could be exploited by terrorist groups and criminal elements

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Saturday questioned the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep the country on its “increased monitoring list” until the implementation of two separate action plans to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pointed out that the global dirty money watchdog had acknowledged his country’s efforts to strengthen its financial system, adding that the last remaining agenda item on a 27-point action plan devised in June 2018 was also being addressed and Pakistan would continue to do more to fix it.

“I think in this situation, there is no justification to keep Pakistan on the grey list,” Qureshi said in a statement. “We will have to see if the FATF is a technical forum or … being used for political purposes.”

However, he maintained that his country would take all necessary measures in its national interest to curb money laundering and terror financing.

Pakistan was placed on the FATF’s grey list of countries with weak and vulnerable financial systems that could be exploited by terrorist groups and criminal elements.

The organization’s president, Dr. Marcus Pleyer, admitted in a virtual press conference on Friday that Islamabad had made “significant progress” and largely addressed 26 out of 27 items on the 2018 action plan.

However, he maintained there was one last item on the list that still needed to be addressed which concerned the “investigation and prosecution of senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups.”

The country was also handed another seven-point action plan to be implemented along with the original 27 points to exit the grey list.

Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, a senior economist and joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad, said Pakistan was suffering financially for being on the FATF’s grey list as the country was not receiving long term foreign investments.

“The FATF is apparently now asking Pakistan to initiate action against specific individuals of some proscribed outfits before being whitelisted,” he told Arab News.

Ahmed suggested the government should step up diplomacy and engage with all members of the global financial watchdog instead of just relying on a handful of countries like China to exit the grey list.

“We will have to be consistent and proactive in our diplomacy to get off the grey list,” he said.

Owais Tohid, a political analyst, said world powers were using the FATF as a geostrategic tool to protect their interests, adding that Pakistan was walking a tight rope to fix flaws in its economic system along with trying to balance its diplomatic relations with Beijing and Washington to get concessions from the watchdog.

“It seems like a political issue,” he told Arab News. “Yes, there are some grey areas in our economic system for largely being informal, but every other country on the planet has its own flaws.”

Tohid described Pakistan as a victim of negative perceptions, adding that it needed to “improve its image in the eyes of the international community to get the required political mileage and support for its fragile economy.

“Organizations like the FATF operate at the whim of world powers,” he continued. “So, we will have to engage proactively with the global community to get off the so-called grey list.”