- Asian Pacific Group on crucial monitoring visit
While the awkward timing of the Financial Action Task Force-affiliated Asian Pacific Group’s official week long trip commencing Monday can be called into question, coming bang in the midst of a change of administrations, the importance of this first interaction since the country’s grey listing in June can hardly be underestimated or taken lightly as its embraces matters of grave national and economic interest, indeed peril. Pakistan had agreed to implement the 26-point FATF agenda and plug existing alleged loopholes in money laundering and terror financing, spread over fifteen months, to the global watchdog’s satisfaction, and thus avoid possible relegation to the dreaded blacklist of ‘non-cooperating countries or territories’, a high-risk label, attended by stringent sanctions and restrictions on external transactions to protect the international financial system. A perpetual state of denial, delays, passing the buck and lame excuses will not suffice any longer, firstly because of the country’s precarious economic plight, worsening by the day, which is compounded by the parallel friction with the US on Afghanistan and CPEC, and the latter’s pressure exerted on IMF not to let Pakistan off the hook this time.
The first step away from perdition rests in the credence of ‘National Risk Assessment Report’ to be submitted to the APG, based hopefully on coordinated, authentic and serious input by the concerned federal and provincial agencies, notably the ministries of Interior and Finance, National Counter-Terrorism Authority, Federal Investigation Agency, Federal Board of Revenue, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, National Task Force on Combating Financial Terrorism and the National Security Committee. There is no time to lose to remove the dangling grey list sword as Pakistan’s current account deficit has swelled to $17.99 billion in 2017-18, trade deficit in July 2018 alone stood at $3.19 billion (exports $1.646 billion, imports 4.838 billion), the 18 percent depreciation in rupee so far proving ineffectual in export growth, and the latest Amnesty Scheme also failing to deliver meaningfully. All Chinese and Saudi bailout packages and goodwill will not work in the long run unless the incoming government helps itself by cracking down hard on money launderers and purveyors of terrorism, whether belonging to the elite or to UNSC designated militants.