The federal government on Saturday said that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has acknowledged the completion of both action plans by Pakistan.
“Pakistan is one step away from exiting the FATF ‘grey list’ and we are closely working with FATF to arrange a meeting,” State Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who lead Pakistan’s delegation to the plenary meeting in Berlin, said in a press conference in Islamabad.
The global anti-money laundering watchdog on Friday expressed satisfaction with Pakistan’s performance but it stopped short of removing it from its ‘grey list’. In a delayed press conference about decisions taken in its plenary, the body’s president Dr Marcus Pleyer said that a FATF team would conduct an on-site visit to Pakistan at the earliest possible date.
“The progress made and recognised by our commitment to improving our […] and CFT systems…,” she said, adding that the FATF has decided that Pakistan has addressed all technical benchmarks and has completed all requirements of both action plans, that of 2018, and that of 2021.
‘No less than Herculean feat’
It was “no less than Herculean feat” and a “remarkable achievement”, Hina said, who landed an hour ago before the presser with her team from Berlin. FATF has now authorised an on-site visit of its technical team to validate the process of the implementation of reforms.
And, no pendency of action remains on part of Pakistan and the country has completed the entire seven-point action plan a year ahead of the given timelines. FATF members appreciated Pakistan’s pace in the completion of points.
“Let me emphasise over here because there might be some confusion, that this is part of the procedure of taking Pakistan out of the grey list,” she said, “When you authorise a country’s removal from the grey list, the first step is that you authorise an on-site technical evaluation which has been done in this plenary.”
Pakistan one step away
Pakistan is one step away from exiting the grey list, the state minister said.
She was of the view that Friday’s development marked the beginning of the end process that will eventually culminate in the exit of Pakistan from the grey list, inshallah and hopefully forever. The foreign ministry was working with the FATF team on mutually workable dates to conclude the visit before the October plenary.
On the sidelines, Pakistan stressed its high-level commitment to anti-money laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) to strengthen its regime and bring it to par with global standards. “I cannot emphasise this enough. We will highlight the complete national consensus. I can assure you that this is the government’s commitment to take this forward.”
Hina said: “We will celebrate the national consensus. I want to also stress that cooperation with FATF and the international community is grounded in our own strategy objective of strengthening our economy.”
She expressed her confidence that this “good news” from FATF would restore confidence in Pakistan’s economy, and will give Pakistan a much-needed boost to improve the investment climate. “I really want to emphasis on the tireless efforts of our teams who have done a tremendous job.”
This is going to be a cross-government effort, she said and emphasised that it was for the state of Pakistan. “Governments come and go. But Pakistan’s consensus will continue on this.”
The exit from FATF ‘grey list’ will have a “very good impact” and will open doors of investment for the country, the minister from PPP said, adding that it would benefit the private sector as companies will come here for investment, sign MoUs, trade and bring foreign direct investment.
Trajectory of reforms
The state minister added that Pakistan is in a position now where it can sustain its trajectory of reforms. “We feel we are quite a bit ahead of the curve compared to other countries. We can be in some ways a model for other countries to follow. We will inshallah exit the grey list as soon as possible.”
Some issues related to the confidentiality requirements in the past urge to share news have harmed the country and the foreign minister was very careful in allowing the plenary to announce the decision, Hina said, adding: “We can never prejudge and speak before time this is something we need to do.”
Pakistan is looking to strengthen its own systems according to its own requirements. It wants to get out of the requirements of having to report to others.
Reaching out to friendly countries
“Yes we always reach out to many friendly countries but we have earned this through shared hard work and consistent work,” Hina said, admitting that there has been diplomatic outreach to get out of the ‘grey list’, however, with strident efforts.
Pakistan has earned this place and the country never lead it to be political and has engaged with many friendly countries at every level, she added.
The minister, who has also served in the capacity of foreign affairs in the past, said that friendly counties assistance in some way was deserved as the country not only honoured all the commitments but also met timelines and outperform it.
She abstained from taking names of such states, adding that everyone knows it.
Giving credit to everyone
“We are giving credit to anyone who seeks it and to everyone. This is not a certain political party agenda but the agenda of Pakistan,” Hina said while replying to a query over who should get the credit for the news.
But, she advised the people to remain mature about it and expressed hope that every political party would continue it. Moreover, there will be Pakistan’s requirements apart from meeting the FATF requirement.
“Either you will grab the opportunity or you will put the hard work to rest and I hope Pakistan will continue with this. Hopefully, we will get out of this and we have to strengthen this,” she said, “Our target is not to take credit but to create opportunities as we are part of the government.”
People should share it as there are stakeholders on it, Hina said, stressing the need for doing required legislation. “I want to emphasise that nothing works better in engaging with the world than at a platform of national consensus.”
Hina was of the view that the country was trying to prove the importance of national consensus through maturity as everyone is a stakeholder in it. She further supported her statement by saying that it will address Pakistan’s concerns over the economy.
She further emphasised the tireless efforts of various agencies, steering committees, institutions, and the foreign office team
‘FATF must be apolitical’
To a query over the FATF’s apparent ignorance of Indian actions, she said that Pakistan has always emphasised that the global anti-money laundering watchdog must be apolitical.
She admitted that political pressure is increased on Pakistan and the country has neutralised it through political engagements
The mutual evaluation report, which is part of FATF, of India is due in 2023.
“A certain, singular country, at least that we all can name, has always tried to make this process a political one and been a spanner in the wheel, and to realise that we got this through consensus in the presence of that certain country … We have to be whiter than others but it shows how much we have achieved.”
What will FATF do in Pakistan?
“They [the FATF team] will be here to see our reports, FATF secretariat, provincial and national coordination, national steering committee, and technical and onsite evaluation. There is no vagueness and confusion,” Hina said in response to questions about the purpose of the trip.
“We will not go into details as they have a lot to work on,” she said, “Our urge to quickly share the news has always harmed us.” The visiting team needs space and comfort for working easily as it is handled technically not politically.
“It’s in our interest. It’s not an easy task but also not difficult,” Hina said while talking about the plenary team’s visit to Pakistan in October. The country aims at meeting the requirements before the next meeting.
The state minister stressed that the country really needs to keep quiet outside and abstain from speculation as it will harm the country. “We will handle it with care as it will result in our own benefit. We still have a journey and we have a last final step and we have to do it with complete focus.”
‘Never make the same mistake again’
Expressing hope that Pakistan would continue to follow the momentum and move forward, she called for never making the same mistakes again.
“Nothing remains an internal issue when it has international repercussions. We have started this trajectory,” Hina said, adding that the country can achieve anything by working together.
“You should be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.”