Robust diplomatic efforts urged to get Pakistan off FATF grey list

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ISLAMABAD: Hoping for a positive outcome of its performance-based review by a joint group, Pakistani authorities would need robust diplomatic efforts to get Pakistan off the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) next month.

A large 18-member delegation, led by Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Azhar, has returned from three days’ face-to-face meetings in Beijing with a joint group of the FATF and its regional affiliate Asia Pacific Group.

Minister Azhar and senior officials would be briefing Prime Minister Imran Khan and National Executive Committee (NEC) on Money Laundering and Terror Financing and push for an effective diplomatic mission to 39-member countries of FATF.

An official said that nothing could be said with certainty at this stage because the joint working group had not yet met separately to finalize its position. “We have not been informed about anything yet but the delegation did its best to satisfy the members of the group and presented Pakistan’s case in an effective manner,” he said.

Another official said that members of the joint group were generally appreciative of Pakistan’s efforts to show satisfactory progress on the majority of the 27-point action plan.

He said the joint group would now finalize its report by February 1 for circulation to all 39 members who will be attending the crucial FATF Plenary and Joint Working Group meetings in Paris on Feb 16-21.

“Therefore, let us wait for the announcement to come from their side and keep our fingers crossed until then,” the official said. There are sensitivities to any official comment from Pakistani side but in unusual indications, Indian media has been reporting Pakistan’s expected exit from the FATF grey list after the Beijing moot.

Indian media also reported that big powers like the US, UK, Japan, Australia, China, and New Zealand did not make any adverse remark about Pakistan’s performance, indicating that Pakistan presented a strong case.

Informed sources said the Beijing meetings were presented a strong case on the basis of a 650-page report on institutional performance, legislation, risk assessment, inter-agency coordination. The same brief would be shared with governments of 39 FATF members by foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, ambassadors, and special envoys to insist upon professional performance-based review without political angles.

The joint group, the sources said, was also given a special briefing on 14 or 15 countries, having poorer anti-money laundering and terror financing arrangements than Pakistan but were out of any grey or blacklist.

At the Feb 16-21 plenary, the APG and FATF would present Pakistan’s case for review. Pakistan would not have the opportunity to defend its case at the plenary as the process almost stood completed. A delegation from Pakistan would, nevertheless, attend the meeting. A day earlier, China had publicly expressed satisfaction over visible progress made by Pakistan to strengthen its counter-terrorism financing system and called upon the international community to recognize its performance.

The FATF plenary had formally placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after a push from India supported by the US, UK, and some European countries.

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