Cold comfort: On Pak continues to be in FATF

Pakistan avoided the blacklist, but it should address cross-border terror

To Islamabad’s deep disappointment, the Paris-based 39-member Financial Action Task Force has decided once again to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries under “increased monitoring”, giving it another three months to complete its commitments. After being removed from that list in 2015, Pakistan was put back on it in June 2018, and handed a 27-point action list to fulfil. On Thursday, FATF President Marcus Pleyer announced that although Pakistan has made “significant progress”, it had three remaining points of the 27 that were only partially addressed, notably all in the area of curbing terror financing. The body listed the remaining tasks: demonstrating terror-funding prosecution is accurate, effective and dissuasive, and thoroughly implementing financial sanctions against all terrorists designated by the UN Security Council, which include LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Masood Azhar, other leaders of terror groups in Pakistan, and those belonging to al Qaeda. Pakistan’s former Interior Minister Rehman Malik has protested the decision most vociferously, even suggesting that the FATF should be taken to The Hague, given that other countries that have completed nearly all the points on their task lists have been dropped from the grey list. He also cited a recent report that calculated Pakistan has lost $38 billion because of its time on the grey list (2008-2015 and 2018-the present). It is cold comfort for Islamabad that the FATF chief also ruled out downgrading Pakistan to the “blacklist”, as he said that Pakistan has made progress on its commitments and this is not “the time” to contemplate the extreme step — this would mean enhanced sanctions and restrictions, as Iran and North Korea face at present. Mr. Pleyer advised Pakistan to complete the remaining tasks by June 2021, when the FATF will meet again to vote on the issue.

The FATF decision coincides with the first signs of a thaw between India and Pakistan since 2016. The decision of the Directors General of Military Operations, also on Thursday, to strictly observe the ceasefire agreement at the LoC, and revelations in the media, which have not been contradicted by the government, that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been in touch with senior officials including the Pakistan Army Chief, are both significant. The joint statement also commits to resolving “core issues” that lead to violence between the two sides, indicating more dialogue between India and Pakistan could be on the cards; there are no political, trade, cultural ties at present. Pakistan’s next steps on the FATF directive to successfully prosecute terrorists and terror financers identified by the grouping are in its own interests. Any proposed New Delhi-Islamabad engagement in the next few months would get a much-needed boost if Pakistan traverses this ‘last mile’ on the FATF grey list, addressing India’s main grievance on cross-border terror that emanates from its soil.

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