Pakistan’s FATF future

Pakistan is all set to remain in the “grey list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). According to a statement, the watchdog has asked the country to “address the remaining deficiencies in its financial system as soon as possible.”

Last month’s announcement was expected for some analysts, and not quite for others. Before the announcement of this decision, there were unsubstantiated reports that that Pakistan will “slip into black list” of FATF. Some reports even said that as Pakistan has failed to control militant organizations like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and also has started Afghanistan Relief Fund, the organization is likely to put Islamabad in “black list.”

Being on this “grey list” has not been easy for Pakistan as the country’s economy has seen a decline of around $38 billion between 2008 and 2019. Analysts highlight that remaining on this list means a direct negative impact on imports, exports, remittances and limited access to international lending.

However, there are positives for Pakistan as the FATF acknowledged Pakistan’s progress on meeting the global commitments to fight financial crimes. It said Pakistan has “completed 26 of the 27 action items in its 2018 action plan” and encouraged Pakistan to continue to make progress.

The Paris-based organization also mentioned that Islamabad has taken swift steps for improving its AML/CFT regime and completed six out of seven action items ahead of deadlines. Some analysts and observers, hence, say all is not bad for Pakistan.

Reacting to the announcement, former Energy Minister Hammad Azhar said: “Pakistan's completion of FATF technical parameters shall be acknowledged soon, despite challenges.” And expressing further hope, Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen said that Islamabad will be out of this list within this year as it had already achieved goals set by FATF.

Observers say the positive response from FATF and hope from the ministers mean that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Independent analysts say it indeed is a fact that Pakistan has taken concrete steps to get itself out from this dreaded list since 2018.

However, analysts insist that the current government needs to work on religious harmony, and most importantly listen to the victims of terrorism.

Critics argue that what may sound against our “geostrategic interests”, is actually TTP hurting Pakistan deep and cuts like the 2014 APS attack still can be felt among masses. The government is repeatedly urged not to treat TTP soft-handedly because it increases anger among the masses and doesn’t give a positive message to the global community.

Furthermore, the government has been asked to further crack down on the far-right parties like Ahle-e-Sunnat Waljamat (ASWJ) and Tehreek-a-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and look into their funding.

Analysts insist that such extremist elements will not show a positive or soft image of the country to others especially FATF. Although ASWJ is banned in Pakistan but it still can hold rallies openly, while TLP has been unbanned and allowed to take in upcoming elections.

The government is urged to nab the extremist elements in the society, if it wants to show the world that it is doing something against terror financing in specific and extremism in general.

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