Friday April 19, 2024

It will be too early to celebrate FATF’s announcement: Hina Rabbani Khar

The credit goes to the whole team that worked day and night to achieve this, says the state minister

By Web Desk
June 18, 2022

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani is addressing a press conference. -APP
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani is addressing a press conference. -APP  

ISLAMABAD: Commending all the state institutions for completing the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) action plan, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday said that it would be too early to celebrate the announcement made by the task force yesterday night as the process to remove Pakistan from the grey list has started now.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Hina Rabbani, who lead the delegation to the FATF plenary in Berlin, clarified that Pakistan is one step away and hoped that the country will be removed from the grey list by October, 2021, after the planned on-site visit of a team of the task force.

“First and the final phase of removing Pakistan from the grey list has begun,” she said.

“It is the beginning but not the end of the journey [towards exclusion from the grey list]” she said, adding that they will have to continue their efforts in this regard.

“A technical team visits the county before removing any state from the grey list,” said the state minister. She maintained that stopping financial assistance to terrorists is Pakistan’s top priority.

She said that the outcome was enabled through “the comprehensive reforms that have been carried out in Pakistan in the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) domain and the sustained momentum of our efforts and the results of those efforts".

"Because as you can see, the first action plan took us much longer while this one was completed before the set timeline and this was something which was very well recognised throughout the plenary by all the members,” she said.

“Pakistan’s positive and speedy progress was greatly appreciated and welcomed by FATF members,” the state minister for foreign affairs added.

Khar said that FATF has acknowledged the completion of both action plans, the progress made and recognised Pakistan’s commitment to improve its AML/CFT position.

Sharing details of the discussions held during the plenary meeting, the minister said that the watchdog has decided, “by consensus” that Pakistan had addressed all technical benchmarks and has completed all requirements of both action plans — 2018 and 2021.

“As a result of this, what we consider to be no less than a herculean feat and a remarkable achievement, FATF has now authorised an on-site visit of its technical team to Pakistan to validate the process of the implementation of the reforms,” she said.

Regarding the dates of the on-site evaluation, Khar said that the authorities concerned are closely working with the FATF to arrange their team’s visit at “mutually convenient dates” with a view to conclude the entire process before the October plenary.

“During our interactions on the sideline of the FATF plenary, we stressed Pakistan’s high-level political commitment to strengthen our AML/CFT regime and bring it at par with the global standards,” she said, adding that the Pakistani authorities have been highlighting “complete national consensus.”

Taking the opportunity, she stressed that Pakistan’s cooperation with the FATF and the international community is grounded in "our own strategic objective" of strengthening our economy and improving its integration with the international financial system.

“I am confident that with this good news from FATF, it will restore confidence in our economy and will give us a much-needed boost, improve the investment climate and robust AML/CFT compliance systems,” she said, highlighting the several benefits of coming out of the grey list.

"I also want to acknowledge, in fact, really want to emphasise, on the tireless efforts of teams who have done a tremendous job […] in achieving these strenuous, difficult and complicated targets."

She further added: “This is indeed the [whole country's] response and I think that is something to celebrate.”

The minister said that Pakistan was now in a position to not only sustain the trajectory of reforms but also to provide guidance and technical support to other countries on the list. We are "quite a bit ahead of the curve", she added.

"I know we are [not only] far ahead regarding the financial regulations system — CFT and AML legislation — within the region, but we are also doing good when you compare us to international benchmarks."

"I am sure we will be fully prepared for the on-site visit and will exit the grey list at the earliest," she said.

“I want to emphasise one thing that we as a nation must remember and respect and that is related to the issues regarding the confidentiality requirements,” she said, recalling that in the past the urge to share news as harmed the country.

The state minister highlighted that this time people would have noticed the authorities were very careful in allowing the announcement of the decision. “Any time you try to pre-judge and speak before your time it will always come back to hurt you,” she said, stressing that this as a nation, not only the government, is something we need to do well in order to complete the start of the end.

“This, however, will not be the end because this will be a new beginning where Pakistan is looking towards strengthening its own systems according to its own requirements and to get out of the requirements to report to others," she added.

Responding to a question, Khar acknowledged that Pakistan was the only country "in the history of FATF" which simultaneously implemented two action plans. "It was quite unprecedented. We were, in fact, the only country that had two simultaneous action plans to implement. It was tedious, arduous, it was difficult ... there was legal framework to take care of, there were amendments to do and then there was institutionalisation of new laws, the building of structures and the system."

"It's too early to celebrate because I genuinely believe that you can't prejudge anything. We have an on-site visit but we have started the process," she maintained.

Replying to another question regarding why it took a long time for the achievement, the state minister said the process was very intensive and the action plan had minute details that required the country to take action at many different levels which is why it was “time consuming”.

The process strengthened Pakistan's system and enabled it to appear as a responsible country, Khar said.

"We have always emphasised that the FATF must remain apolitical, technical and impartial," she said, in response to whether a particular country was behind the long process.

“I feel you should be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” she said, highlighting that this was reflective on how this government raised this issue.

Khar acknowledged that this preparation was in the works for the last many years and the incumbent government was "willing to share credit with whoever wants a piece of the pie" because this a "battle for Pakistan".

Emphasising that Pakistan should be forward-looking and shouldn't engage in debates, rather let by-gones be by-gones, Khar said: "If I will give credit to anyone, it will be my team, and by that, I mean Pakistan's team, because we are representing the state of Pakistan right now. I will give credit to every member of the team who is visible and in the background."

She once again reiterated: "Let's not be overly celebratory right now. The process has started and the on-site visit is due, and even after that our journey will continue, the strengthening of legislation and administration will continue."

Pakistan wins FATF approval

A day earlier, the FATF had declared Pakistan as compliant on all 34 points of two action plans that can now pave the way for its removal from the grey list after an on-site inspection by a force team.

Though monitoring process will continue in the coming months, Pakistani authorities said that it was a unanimous decision for declaring Pakistan compliant on all 34 points. On the last two points, including terror financing and money laundering, the FATF cleared the country in its plenary meeting when action was taken against the leadership of proscribed outfits.

After four years of hectic work and implementing two action plans simultaneously, Islamabad has been found compliant on all 34 items. Now the FATF will dispatch its onsite inspection team to visit Pakistan probably within the next two months. After getting verification and confirmation with the help of an onsite visit, the FATF’s next plenary, expected to be held in October 2022, will confirm exclusion of Pakistan from the grey list.

FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer, while addressing a press conference after the plenary meeting, noted that Pakistani authorities have done a lot of work. “I’m glad to say that they [Pakistan] have now largely addressed all 34 action items from their combined two action plans. Pakistan is not being removed from the grey list today. The country will be removed from the list if it successfully passes the onsite visit,” said Dr Pleyer.

When contacted, Director General (DG) Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) Lubna Malik said the country made progress on all points and achieved prosecution and convictions against those involved in terror financing and money laundering. She said that the country also made progress in taking stern action against the leadership of banned outfits to demonstrate its seriousness, which helped convince the FATF to declare the country compliant. She said that the FATF did not convey a specific time-frame for an onsite inspection visit, but Pakistan wanted to convince the FATF to dispatch its team as early as possible.

The official sources said that the schedule of the onsite inspection was affected badly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic due to which many countries’ scheduled visits could not be accomplished in 2020 and 2021.

PM Shahbaz congratulates nation

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Friday felicitated the nation after the FATF announced that Pakistan would be removed from its 'grey list' after successfully passing the on-site visit stage, Geo News reported.

In a major development for Pakistan stuck in a whirlpool of crises, the international financial watchdog for combating money laundering and terrorist financing announced on Friday that Pakistan has “substantially completed its two action plans” and would be removed from the grey list after it passes the on-site visit stage.

Terming Pakistan’s imminent return to the ‘white list’ a step towards success, PM Shahbaz congratulated the core team, government institutions and all other persons involved in the successful implementation of the FATF action plan.

“Praise be to Allah, everyone’s efforts have borne fruit,” said the PM in a statement.

PM  Shahbaz commends  Hina Rabbani's performance   

The PM also commended the performance of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and the foreign ministry team and said that “efforts of the core cell formed for the completion of the action plan, including civil-military leadership and team are commendable”.

The prime minister further said that the FATF statement was a recognition of the restoration of Pakistan’s reputation internationally.

“God willing, more such glad tidings in coming days will become the fate of Pakistan,” he said, adding that, “we are also working with the same fervour for the economic revival of the country”.