Out of the woods? - Pakistan Today

Out of the woods?

  • Or still in FATF’s crosshairs

Pakistan’s progress in satisfactorily meeting FATF’s (Financial Action Task Force) directives to curb terror financing will be under review in Paris this coming week where its request to be taken off the gray list, on which it was placed over a year ago, will be considered. Although it is highly unlikely that the FATF downgrades Pakistan further to the much dreaded black list, there is no chance that it will be given a clean chit and removed from the gray list altogether. Pakistan enjoys the support of China (currently the president of the FATF), Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, without whose votes blacklisting is not possible. But it will take a total of 12 out of 39 votes to move into the white list. Gathering those votes will require some very intricate and nuanced diplomatic maneuvering, the capacity for which has so far been lacking.

But the positive development that may have won Pakistan the crucial support of the USA at the FATF is the sentencing of Hafiz Saeed by an anti-terrorism court this past week, lack of prosecution against whom has remained a particularly thorny bone of contention between the two countries. Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, has been found guilty of running a terror financing operation under the organization’s various charity wings. Pakistan had for years dragged its feet on taking any definitive action against Hafiz Saeed who was even allowed to contest elections in 2018. It took quite a lot of pressure from the FATF, the USA and even some of Pakistan’s closest allies to realise that ignoring Saeed’s activities was no longer going to be tolerated, and would lead the country to an eventual blacklisting.

Pakistan had failed to meet 22 of the 27 recommendations of the FATF at the last review meeting held in October 2019 and was given another four months to comply. In all likelihood, it will be given another deadline to meet the remaining unfulfilled objectives. It is imperative that during this time Pakistan gains the much-needed support of countries who believe that it is willing to implement significant changes in its internal security policy and financial system to combat terror financing and money laundering. For that it will have to display some tangible advancement towards the goal of getting out of the FATF’s crosshairs; support will naturally follow.