Whether Pakistan will remain on the grey list for another extended period or get out of it will be decided by the FATF plenary meeting in Paris later this month. However, Pakistan delegation led by Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar seems to have successfully defended its compliance report at the meeting of Asia Pacific Group of FATF in Beijing during December 2019 as the vibes emanating from it are quite positive. Reportedly the meeting expressed satisfaction over the compliance report submitted by Pakistan in spite of best efforts by India to ensure penalties on her. No member of the FATF including US and EU supported the Indian view. This development not only represents a major blow to the Indian diplomatic efforts but is also a good augury for Pakistan in regards to getting out of this conundrum.
Now Pakistan requires mustering up diplomatic support for its efforts to come out from grey list and land into the white as it will need 12 votes out of total 39 in the next plenary meeting of the FATF. Pakistan was put on the grey list by FATF in June 2018 and had been given 27 action plans till September 2019 to comply for coming out from it. Asia Pacific Group of the organization was assigned the task to monitor Pakistan’s progress on the action plans and submit a report to the parent body. Since then Pakistani authorities have held a number of review meetings with the group, the last one in last October. Pakistan was found of having complied with 36 out of 40 parameters. However the Joint Working Group found Pakistan largely compliant on 10 points, partially compliant on another 10 points and non-compliant on seven points out of the 27 action plans given by the FATF. Pakistan was kept in the grey list and asked to comply with rest of the action plans and submit compliance report till December which it did and on the basis of which the FATF members have expressed their satisfaction.
In my considered opinion the issue has attained political dimensions. The placing of Pakistan on the grey list was surely motivated by such considerations with a view to keep Pakistan under pressure. One must not forget that Pakistan was put on the grey list in June 2018 on the basis of a US sponsored motion to have Pakistan grey-listed and the move as usual was supported by her western allies like Britain, France and Germany among others. It was very much expected in the backdrop of the nosedive in relations between Pakistan and USA since the announcement of the new Policy on South Asia and Afghanistan by President Donald Trump and its outright rejection by Pakistan.
It was the most unfortunate development in view of the fact that Pakistan which had been the US ally since early fifties and had suffered the most in the war against terrorism remained a suspect in the eyes of the latter in regards to its indiscrimination action against the terrorist outfits.
The reality is that Pakistan has been a sincere partner in the war on terror and has not only dismantled the infrastructure of all the terrorist outfits based on its territory including North Waziristan but is also faithfully engaged in eliminating the remnants of their supporters within the country. It has also taken all possible administrative and legal measures to check and block the sources of funding to the terrorist organizations. Pakistan had already promulgated a Presidential Ordinance to amend the anti-terror legislation in order to include all UN-listed individuals and groups in the national listings of proscribed outfits and persons. Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also took measures in keeping with the FATF regulations and issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations 2018. The government had also chalked out a comprehensive plan to eradicate terrorist financing which was shared with the international watch-dog. The FATF decision was reflective of the US rhetoric of do more. It was also indicative of how much influence US could exercise on world bodies like FATF.
It is pertinent to point out that a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign ministry referring to FATF decision had said “In recent years Pakistan has actively taken measures to strengthen financial supervision and crack down on terrorist financing and made important progress. We have always believed that the great efforts and sacrifices made by the Pakistan government and people for the fight against terrorism are obvious to all. The international community must give full recognition and trust to these efforts and treat those efforts objectively and impartially instead of relying on criticism and pressure” The statement adequately unraveled how the decisions were taken under pressure at the global forums.
Before the Beijing meeting Pakistan had done its homework well. Besides taking administrative and legal measures to comply with the FATF requirements it also undertook intensive lobbying and diplomatic efforts to muster support for her cause. Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met US secretary of State Mike Pompeo and discussed the issue with him seeking support for getting out of the grey list. Prime Minister in his meeting with President Trump on the sidelines of Davos Forum among other things also deliberated on the issue of FATF. The relations between US and Pakistan which had gone into a nosedive when President Trump announced his policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, have been transformed into a renewed bonhomie due to the role that Pakistan has played in bringing the US and Taliban on the negotiating table which has almost brought the two sides close to an agreement to end decades old conflict in Afghanistan.
In view of recalibration of relations between US and Pakistan and the concrete and credible steps taken by Pakistan ever since placement in the grey list, it could be genuinely hoped that things would have a positive outcome at the Paris meeting. Pakistan however will have to further step up her diplomatic efforts in the run up to the Paris meeting to win the support of maximum members of FATF to thwart the Indian designs. It is pertinent to point out that Pakistan has avoided being pushed into the black list because of the persistent support of China, Turkey and Malaysia.