Sunday April 14, 2024

Still in the grey

By Editorial Board
June 27, 2021

To some it was expected, and to others it was a bolt from the blue. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has retained Pakistan on the grey list that stipulates ‘increased monitoring’. The FATF is the Paris-based watchdog that once again evaluated Pakistan as deficient in persecuting the top leaderships of UN-designated terror groups. Such outfits include Al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban, and some others. The plenary session that took place virtually from June 21-25 made this decision despite the fact that Pakistan had completed 26 of the 27 tasks that it had to comply with. Essentially the decision is the result of the perception that Pakistan has failed to convict terrorists and terror entities, making it impossible for Pakistan to obtain a delisting verdict -- at least for now. But the most devastating outcome of the session for Pakistan was that it has received another six-point list that mainly deals with money laundering. Now, Pakistan also has to comply with the new list irrespective of whether the government of Pakistan disagrees with or dislikes it.

Though the FATF has tried to sound positive by encouraging Pakistan to continue making progress to address as early as possible the one remaining Countering Finance of Terrorism (CTF) item, the ultimate outcome for Pakistan has not at all been positive. According to the evaluation of the FATF, Pakistan still has to demonstrate that terror financing investigations and prosecutions have targeted senior commanders and leaders of the UN-designated terrorist groups. This decision by the FATF is disappointing and smacks of a partial approach as Pakistan had provided documentation to show that it had prosecuted around 30 UN-designated terrorists and their associates. There is solid evidence that Pakistan has charged these criminals in as many as 70 cases of terror financing, and in nearly 50 cases the courts have granted convictions. Well-known names such as LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and operations commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, JeM chief Masood Azhar and others have received convictions or charges for terror financing.

Those who oppose Pakistan and want it to remain in the grey list have projected these cases to be an ‘eyewash’ as many of the charges and convictions came about just ahead of various FATF meetings. Now Pakistan needs to take it even more seriously as just by blaming ‘others’ for our miseries is not going to help. It is true that India has been trying to politicize the process at the FATF, and unfortunately now the ball is once again in Pakistan’s court. Rhetoric, no matter how strong, is not going to help us in any way. The FATF must also realize that it is a technical forum and any attempts to make it a political platform is tarnishing its image. In the past too, our overconfidence has not helped us, and it is not going to do so in future. If we want to be let off the grey list, we must comply otherwise we are likely to attract economic strictures that will restrict our access to international loans that the country badly needs.