Pakistan should ‘do more’ is the mantra of the international financial regulator. The Paris-based anti-money laundering arm, FATF, believes that Pakistan be retained on the grey list, and put under increased monitoring. Islamabad has made great strides in implementing the 2021 action plan by addressing four out of the seven new items. Yet, the point of concern remains investigation and prosecution of money-laundering cases, confiscation of assets and UN listing of the terror accused. This roller-coaster drive since June 2018 is too demanding, to say the least, and the goodwill on part of Pakistan hasn’t been appreciated in realising two concurrent action plans simultaneously.
FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer, however, says that the entire process of scrutiny and assessment is on technical parameters, and there is no element of bias in it. But some of the demands are unrealistic in essence, such as relying on Pakistan to tame some of the militant and proscribed outfits that are out of its de jure reach. How can Islamabad prevail over Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and ISIS, and many of their affiliates who are on the run and do not maintain books with any accredited institution in Pakistan? Still Pakistan is doing all it can to extend the scanner of investigation, as well as prosecution of senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups.
The good point is that Pakistan is complying, and has every intention to come out of the woods. Federal Minister Hammad Azhar hopes Pakistan would complete the required process in a couple of months, and stand out uprightly. Reports testify Pakistan has smartly put its house in order, convicted more than 150 people in money-laundering, and come down hard on terror financing channels — an aspect acknowledged by FATF and international donors. This progression was more than enough to take it off the grey list, but it seems perceptual enigmas prevail at times. FATF members must recognise that Pakistan officially calls for acting against flight of capital, and advocates a mechanism to curb such a tendency. Pushing Pakistan to the wall with a hidden agenda is regrettable. FATF should take note of its loud thinking.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2021.
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