Mainstreaming extremist groups looks good on paper; however, it also comes at a cost.

Pakistan’s FATF grey-listing should not come as a surprise to anyone

Hafiz Saeed’s aides contesting the polls and Ludhianvi's assets being unfrozen, Pakistan's efforts are questionable.

Farooq Yousaf June 29, 2018
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary meeting in Paris has reportedly decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list; a decision that has surprised many in Pakistan. Pakistan has been kept on the so-called grey list which includes countries accused of financing or aiding terrorism.

The FATF was established in 1989 – with its headquarters in Paris – and its main objectives include combating financing of terrorism, money laundering and other elements pertaining to the integrity of the international financial system.

Even though Pakistan has surely not done enough to get off the grey list, the FATF failed to bring into consideration the fact that the country is currently governed by an interim setup. The interim setup’s mandate and priority number one is holding July polls on time. Hence, focusing on matters of international concern are way down its priority list. By not factoring in this transitional period, the FATF might have somewhat validated concerns or allegations (by Pakistan) that its decisions might be influenced by Pakistan’s rivals.

However, this should not be a valid excuse for Pakistan.

Even if the FATF is, in some way, allegedly influenced by the US and India, it was Pakistan’s inaction against terror financing that gave the watchdog enough reasons to keep it on the list. Since February’s listing, Pakistan had more than three months to take concrete measures to thwart global perceptions that the country was responsible for financing terror outfits, mainly the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

However, with Hafiz Saeed’s aides and associates contesting the upcoming polls, Pakistan’s case is becoming weaker by the day. Moreover, the unfreezing of assets of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)’s Ahmed Ludhianvi also puts a major question mark on Pakistan’s efforts and weakens its FATF case.

Ironically, Ludhianvi’s decision coincides with Pakistan committing to a comprehensive 26-point action plan at the FATF, spanning 15 months, to avoid being put on the black list. The action plan requires Pakistan to choke terror financing of groups such as the Islamic State (IS), al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, JuD, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

It is also unfair, in the current situation, to blame the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government alone for this fiasco. Everyone involved in the policy-making process, including the military and bureaucracy, should also be equally held responsible for Pakistan’s global shame.

Where the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR)’s spokesperson alluded to proposals for mainstreaming extremist groups, the diplomats, on the other hand, also failed to present an effective case both globally and at the FATF. Finally, the Sharif-led government, embroiled in its own Panama/Iqama fiasco in the final years, gave little attention to this issue. On top of that, the unchecked entry, and progression, of hate-inciting Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and its leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi also showed lack of Pakistan’s seriousness in this regard.

Mainstreaming extremist groups looks good on paper; however, it also comes at a cost. A cost that creates complications for the country in global politics and bilateral relations, along with it global financial transactions are kept under strict scrutiny and are taking longer than usual time.

Even though Pakistan’s interim setup is currently busy in the day-to-day management for the upcoming elections, taking corrective measures to get the country off the grey list should be an equal priority. If Pakistan – in the worst case scenario – is added to the FATF blacklist in future, the incumbent government would have a major task on hand to undo the damage caused in the international arena. Where Pakistan’s forex reserves and exports are already on a constant downward spiral, getting on the blacklist would only make things worse. Moreover, in case of inadequate action, Pakistan might even find it hard to keep its friends, mainly China, on board. China has occasionally voiced concerns in this regard, and hence wants Pakistan to take concrete action.

Unlike the current social media trend in Pakistan, blaming a single party or entity – whether the PML-N or the Army – for the grey-listing is not the solution. If the country aims to come clean and get its name off the grey list, only a concerted effort – with the united civil-military leadership – against extremist, militant and terror groups is the need of the day.
Farooq Yousaf The writer is based in Australia and holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales. He has previously completed his Masters in Public Policy and Conflict Studies from Germany. He also occasionally consults Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and writes for various news, academic and media sources. His areas of interest and research Indigenous conflict resolution, South Asian history, postcolonialism, and counter insurgency. He tweets @drfarooqyousaf (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Sane | 2 years ago | Reply The 'grey listing' is not done due to terrorism charges, but on money laundering. FATF does not have mandate relevant to terrorism. If any country is to be put on such a list due to terrorism, that must be INDIA, the country of RAPISTS and MURDERERS.
numbersnumbers | 2 years ago The FATF deals with AML (anti money laundering) and CTF (counter terrorism financing) regimes! All should read today’s ET editorial “Demystifying FATF’s Grey List”!
Raj | 2 years ago | Reply But sir, Pakistan was given a very long rope since 2015 and when proper governemnts were in place Pakistan did nothing. Now, for the past one month only internim government is there. Do you want to say that, during interim government, pakistan can still sponsor terrrosim and the FATF shoud ignore just because, interim governmnet is there in pakistan? Also, how do you explain when terorrists are main streamed even during the interim government. IS that oK?
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