Pakistan has garner support of at least three member states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to avoid being pushed into the financial watchdog’s ‘blacklist’ for now.
The dark clouds of threat, however, continue to hover over Islamabad.
The temporary breather for Islamabad came as a result of its assertive diplomatic effort to garner the support of FATF member countries to counter the looming threat of a ‘blacklist’ push from the existing ‘grey’.
Pakistan has been able to attract the support of Turkey, China, and Malaysia, which has helped Islamabad avoid being placed on the FATF blacklist.
The support has ensured temporary relief as it falls under the requirements of the FATF charter, which states that the support of at least three member states is essential to avoid the blacklisting.
While the Imran Khan-led government is relieved by this development, diplomatic sources say the danger is still not over as a formal decision of the FATF is to be announced in October this year.
“There is no imminent threat, which is a good development for Pakistan. The support of Turkey, China and Malaysia has been the saviour this time,” said a government official.
Experts believe that the current relief Pakistan has been able to get is temporary. However, it will give it more time to garner and attract more support from member states.
“This is a temporary relief allowing us to rally more and more support to permanently get rid of this threat,” said Ali Sarwar Naqvi, former ambassador of Pakistan to Jordan.
“As far as I know, the foreign ministry is already in touch with FATF and Asia Pacific Group members and other friendly countries, and briefing them of measures it has taken to combat terror financing and money laundering recently”, he added.
Islamabad has been on the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog FATF ‘grey list’ since June 2018 as it got placed in the list of terrorist financing and money laundering risks after thorough assessment of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the country’s security mechanism and its financial systems.
Currently, India, the co-chair of the joint group of FATF and the Asia Pacific Group (APG), along with the United States and United Kingdom, has been campaigning to ensure Islamabad ends up in FATF’s ‘blacklist’, claiming that the country has failed to meet international standards in combating financial crimes and terror financing.
Pakistan has not been able to implement the action plan, which was assigned to it by the APG and FATF, deadline of which ended in January 2019, but was given leverage till May 2019.
The watchdog, in its statement in February, had stated, “given the limited progress on action plan items due in January 2019, FATF urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan, particularly those with timelines of May 2019.”
While FATF maintains that Pakistan had made progress towards implementation of the action plan, it has reiterated that Islamabad needs to do more through “dissuasive sanctions” and “effective prosecution” to ensure a complete blockade for money laundering and terror financing.
Of the 27 indicators mentioned in the action plan, Pakistan has been able to comply with only 18, resulting in a renewed demand of ‘do more’ with remarks stating its performance ‘unsatisfactory’, during the meeting in Guangzhou, China last month.
In order to get rid of the FATF ‘grey list’, Pakistan required at least 15 of 36 votes and analyst say attracting support for that will be an uphill task for Islamabad. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said London agreed to support Pakistan in its effort to move out of the list.
Pakistan is maintaining that it has taken major steps to combat terror financing and money laundering, including no foreign currency transactions without a national tax number, ban on currency change up to $500 in open currency market without submission of a national identity card copy, and proscribe several militant groups and their assets including Jamat-ud-Dawa (JUD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
No matter how much support Pakistan may be able to get to see itself out of the FATF threat, it still needs to comply with all the indicators of the action plan of FATF and APG, which Islamabad claims, are being fulfilled through tangible and concrete actions on ground.