As a follow-up to their August meeting, a team from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) began talks with Pakistani officials on October 8, including members from the State Bank, interior and finance ministries, and the financial monitoring unit among others.
For citizens who have been affected by terrorism, this step towards accountability comes with relief. Terrorist groups have continued to operate on this land and it is time for the government to keep a strict check on how they receive the funding to do so, having had a history of banned outfits linked to high-profile figures and organisations.
Removed from the gray list in 2015 after a three-year stint since 2012, Pakistan has made its way back to the list. This was predictable because since then, many of our politicians, including the former prime minister, have been charged with embezzlement and money laundering. In fact, that Pakistan was removed from the list in 2015 seems unbecoming since the Panama Papers were also released that same year with several Pakistanis named. Nonetheless, it is critical for Islamabad to review its administrative and legal procedures to tackle terror financing so that extremists are cut off at their source. Another eventual risk in being on the list for possible terror financing is sanctions from other countries and more difficulties for ordinary Pakistani citizens visiting abroad.
In a sensible move, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan immediately adopted the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2018 in June, wasting no time. This demonstrates to the FATF team that Islamabad is taking a stronger stance than before, as the SECP’s press release stated that the regulations will replace any preceding ones with regard to anti-money laundering and terror financing. Thus, there is a chance that FATF experts from the US Department of Treasury, the Scotland Yard and others will be satisfied with Pakistan’s measures but it remains to be seen whether Pakistan eradicates the problem rapidly enough to be removed from the list by September 2019.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2018.