ISLAMABAD: A crucial plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) kicked off in Paris on Sunday where it would be decided whether or not Pakistan had taken enough measures against money laundering and terror financing to be taken off the global watchdog’s grey list.
The meeting will formally start from today [Monday] and last until February 21.
Pakistani officials are fairly optimistic about exiting the grey list saying that there has been significant progress in meeting the financial watchdog’s requirements.
In February 2018, the FATF had found serious deficiencies in the country’s anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism regimes and gave Pakistan a 27-point action plan to exit the grey list.
In October last year it gave another warning to Islamabad to show full compliance by February 2020.
During the meetings of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group of the FATF in Beijing last month, Pakistan was found to have largely addressed 14 of the 27 points in the action plan. There was partial compliance in 11 of them. However, Pakistani officials fear that the FATF might declare two action points related to cash couriers and convictions in terror-financing cases non-compliant.
Sources said Pakistan was still not fully compliant but had made significant progress that was acknowledged by the countries that reviewed its progress report. It has largely addressed the issues highlighted against majority of the action points.
The FATF says Pakistan should adequately identify, assess and understand risks associated with militant groups allegedly operating in Pakistan such as Islamic State group, al Qaeda, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has recently handed down a jail term of five and a half years to JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and his aide for terror financing. The conviction is being seen as crucial development in connection with the FATF review.
The move was praised by the US. The conviction “of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward — both toward holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing,” tweeted Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia.
On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while addressing joint sitting of the Pakistani parliament said his country would help Islamabad stay off the FATF’s blacklist at the Paris meeting.
Support from Turkey and longtime allies China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia could help Pakistan remain off the blacklist. A minimum of three votes are required for any country to escape the blacklisting.
If it joined the blacklist alongside Iran and North Korea, Islamabad would face sanctions and economic setbacks at a time when its economy is struggling with a balance of payment crisis.