ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has fairly met all conditions set by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for second review but the authorities say Islamabad may not fully satisfy evaluators without launching a diplomatic offensive.
In an in-camera briefing, the Ministry of Finance, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and State Bank of Pakistan have given a “satisfactory report” on implementation of 27-point FATF Action Plan to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance.
The thrust of their briefing was that Pakistan has finally begun a journey on a path that leads to addressing the concerns of global bodies working to combating financing of terrorism and money laundering.
But at the same time, the finance ministry expressed reservations that the regional and global powers would undermine the efforts of Pakistan.
The committee was briefed that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa were committed to address all those issues that led to grey listing of Pakistan by FATF in February last year.
But the committee members were not fully satisfied over the briefing. The government did not give point-by-point briefing to the committee, depriving the parliamentarians from undertaking an objective analysis of where the country was standing.
The committee was not informed about exact level of compliance on 19 actions that Pakistan has to meet for the second review that will take place in June.
“Pakistan has sent a satisfactory report to the FATF on implementation of its action plan”, said Standing Committee Chairman Faizullah, while giving a brief statement to the media after the meeting.
He added, “All the technicalities of the review have been met but the work is going on the political aspects of the FATF”.
Without launching political and diplomatic offensives there were remote chances that Pakistan would be able to satisfy the FATF, at least three members of the standing committee speaking on condition of anonymity told The Express Tribune after the committee meeting.
Pakistan would launch a charm offensive to convince at least four friendly countries to back its case in the second review of the FATF.
The standing committee’s analysis was that the government had done some work but it may not be able to fully demonstrate its actions when they are confronted by the evaluators.
Islamabad had been given a 27-point action plan that the country will implement till September 2019. The FATF has placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose terrorism financing and anti-money laundering laws are described as deficient.
Out of 27 points, Pakistan is required to fully meet 19 point including 3 that the FATF did not declare satisfactory in the first review. Pakistan was also hopeful before the first review of the implementation of the Action Plan that took place in February but the FATF was not very impressed by the efforts.
But the committee chairman said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has held at least three meetings and the government was fully focused to fulfill all the conditions set out by the FATF. The administrative measures were taken at a fast pace and the legislation work was also underway to address the FATF’s concerns, he added.
He said that Anti Money Laundering Amendment Bill 2019 has been submitted in the National Assembly and it will soon be enacted soon.
The Joint Group (JG) of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of the Asia Pacific Group would hold a face-to-face meeting next month in Sri Lanka. Pakistan is a member of the APG and its case is being presented before the FATF by the APG. India’s Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU) director general is the co-chair of the Joint Group.
After the JG meeting, Pakistan’s case will be presented in the plenary meeting of the FATF that will be held in June.
Pakistan has asked the FATF to remove India from the co-chair of the Joint Group. Former finance minister Asad Umar had also met with the FATF President Marshall Billingslea to appoint any other member as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific’s Joint Group, in place of India, to ensure that the FATF review process is fair, unbiased and objective.
But FATF did not accept Pakistan’s request.
The authorities briefed the standing committee that Pakistan has made an extraordinary progress on implementation of the Action Plan. The committee was informed that significant progress has been reported by the customs authorities in seizure of cash at Afghan border. But the customs authorities did not provide a breakup of how many those seizures were related to terrorism financing.
The inter-agency cooperation has also been improved between the federal and provincial governments.
The provincial counter terrorism departments have started registering terrorism financing cases. According to a new policy approved by the premier, the joint investigation teams (JITs) have also been tasked to conduct financial investigations in all terrorism-related cases. The policy has been designed by the Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) wing of the National Counter Terrorism Authority.
The provincial CTDs have been given powers to investigate money laundering cases.
As per the FATF requirements, the details of 7,200 proscribed persons were now publically available, which is maintained under the fourth schedule.
The committee was informed that the government has frozen the assets of the banned organizations. But NACTA did not inform the committee about the categorization of eight proscribed organizations.
India was pressing Pakistan hard by using the FATF platform to get these banned organizations declared high risk.
The officials informed that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) significantly improved risk-based approach to contain risks in non-profit organisations.