THE latest message from Paris is unmistakable. The tone of the Financial Action Task Force on the conclusion of its plenary indicates how seriously the world is taking Pakistan’s inability to meet global anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing standards.
Read: Pakistan escapes FATF blacklist, but gets warning
These concerns were voiced in so many words by the FATF president when he noted: “Pakistan needs to do more [to fix the weaknesses in its anti-money laundering/combating financing for terrorism regime] and it needs to do it faster. Pakistan’s failure to fulfil the FATF global standards is an issue we take very seriously.”
Then followed the warning, perhaps the first since Pakistan was placed on the FATF grey list in June 2018 for an intense monitoring process that the country has only until next February to make “significant progress” on.
It must do this across the full range of the 27-point national action plan agreed on with FATF, or risk action which could include Pakistan being blacklisted along with countries considered a haven for terrorism financing.
The outcome of the plenary is quite the opposite of what ministers and officials had projected.
Contrary to official claims, Pakistan has missed the third deadline for implementing the measures required to exit the grey list. Only five of the 27 measures — which include identification and supervision of terror-financing risks and boosting control on illicit currency movement — have been ‘largely’ addressed. Sadly, the government has never cared to publicly share the document. It is, however, unclear if FATF rules bar it from making the plan public or if it is keeping it a secret for some other reason.
Indeed, FATF also acknowledges the progress made by the country towards improving its AML/CFT regime, but didn’t find it adequate enough to let it off the hook.
It underlines that Pakistan hasn’t adequately demonstrated “proper understanding of the transnational terror-financing risks posed by terrorist groups” [operating from its territory] and conducted supervision on a risk-sensitive basis.
FATF requires Pakistan to deliver on its commitment to crack down on terrorism financing by fixing the strategic deficiencies in the AML/CFT regime such as identification of cash couriers, enforcement of controls on illicit currency movement, effective implementation of financial sanctions against all internationally designated terrorists and militant groups, as well as their agents.
Failure to meet the February deadline for making “significant and sustainable progress” will put the country on the blacklist and have serious consequences for its struggling economy, including tough sanctions on its banks and a freeze on official and private capital inflows.
The time to linger on Pakistan’s commitments has passed. It is now time to walk the talk if the country wants to escape being blacklisted or even get another extension to comply fully with the global AML/CFT standards after the expiry of the current deadline.
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019
THE PCB, with its knack of attracting controversy, has once again made a hash of a simple change of guard in the national cricket team. As the aphorism goes, ethics is about knowing the difference between what one has the right to do and what is the right thing to do. But clearly, this is lost on the cricket board which has its priorities mixed up as it assesses Tests, ODIs and T20s using the same yardstick. While there is no doubt that the cricket team’s performance in the Tests and ODIs during the past year and a half left much to be desired and called for a change in leadership, its brilliant performance in the T20 format has seen it perched on top of ICC rankings since January 2018 with no serious challenge from any side. On Friday, the PCB announced sweeping changes by bringing in middle-order batsman Azhar Ali as the new Test captain and the inexperienced Babar Azam as the new T20 skipper, in place of Sarfraz Ahmed. Azhar’s previous stint as ODI captain had ended abysmally in 2016. Handed the Test reins now, Azhar has the toughest of challenges awaiting him in the shape of the upcoming Australian tour. No Pakistan team has ever won a series Down Under, and both Azhar and Misbah-ul-Haq — head coach-cum-chief-selector — should be mindful of that.
However, a change at the top in Tests was inevitable since Sarfraz had clearly lost the zest to successfully lead the team in the five-day format. Having said that, his removal as T20 skipper is patently unjust given his fantastic record of 29 victories and only eight losses in the format at the international level. True, the home series’ whitewash at the hands of a depleted Sri Lankan side is impossible to defend. And yet, his fate should not have been decided on the basis of this defeat. Sarfraz deserved to be retained as T20 skipper. The PCB has erred by handing the T20 mantle to the team’s best batsman Babar, who has no prior experience of leadership in international cricket. With the added burden of captaincy, he is bound to feel the heat in Australia. The new dispensation at the PCB may want to show that it means business but all that it has done is to make decisions that are likely to backfire. Much of the team’s performance can be traced to how the PCB functions. That needs to change if Pakistan cricket is to go back to its winning ways.
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019
IN keeping with their paranoia of an independent media, the authorities in Pakistan deported Steven Butler of the Committee to Protect Journalists when he arrived in the country this week. Mr Butler had reached Lahore to take part in the Asma Jahangir Conference. He was told that his name was on the ‘stop list’ of the interior ministry; he was sent to Doha, from where he was put on a flight to Washington. In a scene reminiscent of the era of hard-core dictatorships, the airport authorities were said to have ‘confiscated’ his travel documents. Typically, there has been no explanation about the incident from any government spokesperson here, fuelling speculation about the possible reasons for Mr Butler’s deportation. Many news reports referred to a CJP special report about Pakistan issued last year which had noted the worsening climate for media freedoms in the country.
The immediate domestic and international reaction to the door being so rudely shut on a foreign journalist, a would-be guest at an event to honour the memory of Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most vocal human rights activists, was measured. A tweet by one Pakistani human rights group expressed disappointment at the government’s decision which it said “must be re-evaluated”. Amnesty International also called for an immediate reversal of the decision. However, since then, the debate has moved on to tackling the broader question of how Pakistan can promote a soft image of itself if it continues to stick to a policy of abruptly refusing someone with a valid visa entry into the country, without assigning any reason. It also bears asking whether a ‘stop list’ is a valid mechanism, or yet another ad hoc measure like the FIA’s ‘blacklist’, which is meant to prevent people going out of the country. The gains made by the visit of foreign royalty, cricketers of a friendly country and sundry groups are all compromised by news such as this which spreads far and wide. Why give anyone any cause to suspect that the country has something to hide?
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019