In what constitutes a clear official stance, Beijing has declared support for Pakistan over its efforts to break through the FATF web. A senior official of the Chinese foreign ministry has, at a recent press talk, hailed Pakistan’s progress to comply with the taskforce’s action plan, alongside declaring his country’s aversion to the “political designs” that “go beyond the purpose” of the 39-member inter-governmental organisation working to tackle the menace of money laundering and terror financing around the world. The official had no hesitation in saying that “there are some countries which want to include Pakistan in the blacklist. They have political designs which China is against” and “we made it clear to the US and India that we cannot do it.”
Beijing’s unequivocal backing over the FATF must be a source of relief for Pakistan which has been handed a four-month lifeline, till February 2020, to ensure implementation on the global watchdog’s 27-point action plan. Pakistan was put on the FATF’s grey list in June 2018 and was given 15 months to come clean, along with a warning that in case of failure, it would be added to the blacklist — which also comprises the likes of Iran and South Korea, and which means global economic sanctions.
Even though Pakistan has, in recent months, taken several major steps in line with the FATF action plan — like proscribing several militant groups and seizing their assets as well as ensuring that foreign currency transactions in the country are not left undocumented — it has been told to ‘do more’ in what does substantiate China’s contention about the US and India harbouring political designs. And that leaves little doubt that Pakistan’s FATF woes are political in nature; and that the blacklist threat is one of the several ways for the world powers to keep Pakistan under pressure in pursuit of their diplomatic goals.
It is no denying, however, that the FATF’s assessment coming up in four roughly four months from now also serves as an opportunity for the incumbent government to focus on ridding Pakistan of the nuisance of money laundering and terror financing.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2019.