Pakistan needs to launch aggressive diplomatic effort to exit FATF greylist: Official

Islamabad: Apart from technical compliance, Pakistan needs to launch an aggressive diplomatic effort over the next four weeks to secure enough support and votes to exit the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the global watchdog on anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing terror (CFT).

A senior government official told Dawn that the coming FATF Plenary and Working Group meetings in Orlando, Florida, scheduled for June 16-21, would be crucial for Pakistan to get rid of the greylist or fall into the blacklist having serious economic reper­cussions. The Orlando plenary will actually set the stage for Pakistan’s future even though a formal announcement would come out at the next FATF plenary due in Paris on October 18-23, he said.

Pakistan was now fully compliant with the related United Nations resolutions, said the official who was part of the Pakistani delegation to ‘Face-to-Face meeting’ of the Asia-Pacific Group, a regional affiliate of the FATF, in Guangzhou, China last week.

Pakistan has taken aggressive steps over the last two months in terms of a regulatory and monitoring mechanism to meet the FATF requirements and its legal system is generally up to the mark, except some amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) 2010 pending before the National Assembly’s standing committee on finance and revenue.

“We believe we have generally delivered on the technical side i.e. legal and administrative action, regulations, monitoring, enforcement and inter-agency and stakeholder coordination and now require more of the diplomatic push to counter the adversaries,” said the official.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was expected to be given a briefing on the Guangzhou meeting and on the way forward on Monday. He said it was expected Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi would now coordinate with stakeholders on a strategy to reach out to the world capitals in a difficult diplomatic environment where the US-India grouping has greater influence and non-aligned members of the FATF prefer to abstain than siding with Pakistan.

Sources said Pakistan required about 15-16 votes to move out of the greylist and a minimum of three votes to avoid falling into the blacklist. The FATF currently comprises 36 members with voting powers and two regional organizations, representing most of the major financial centres in all parts of the globe.

The FATF plenary had formally placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after the country could not secure a minimum of three votes as its friends had their own political targets to secure in the global watchdog.

China is set to secure FATF presidency next year while Saudi Arabia representing the Gulf Cooperation Council is to become a full FATF member. Turkey was the only member that stood by Pakistan despite a strong adverse campaign launched by the US, UK, India and Europe.

The official said the Pakistani delegation led by the finance secretary presented a robust case before the APG panel on the country’s progress on the 10-point action plan committed with the global watchdog despite tough questioning from some participants. The APG appeared generally appreciative of the progress made by Islamabad, he said, adding that it was not the session to draw conclusions or expect judgments from.

The official said Pakistan submitted a progress report at the Guangzhou meeting and had to respond to questions from the APG members to clarify certain things. The APG would now submit its findings, based on Pakistan’s report and question-answer session, to the FATF in its June 16-21 Plenary and Working Group meetings in the United States.

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