The Paris-based FATF put Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended to June 2020. Due to COVID-19 pandemic it was yet again postponed till October 2020.
The Pakistani government, aware of the fact that nothing significant has been done in this regard since the time it was greylisted and it will be extremely difficult for it to get financial aid from the IMF, World Bank, ADB, and the European Union if blacklisted, thus further enhancing problems for the nation which is already in a precarious financial situation and has been desperately trying to wriggle out of the FATF’s grey list, of late. In its last-minute exercise to escape from being blacklisted, last month, it imposed financial sanctions on 88 banned terror groups and their leaders, including 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. It also passed three bills related to FATF in a joint session of parliament on 16 September 2020, keeping the October 2020 FATF meet at Paris in view, wherein decision would be taken regarding its fate.
“For Pakistan, the grey list is better than the blacklist, especially when the country’s intent is not to shut down the jihad completely, not any time soon.
The FATF’s grey list is to make countries comply with the international norms on terror financing and money laundering by coercing them to make serious efforts to completely shut down access to funds for terrorist groups. But Pakistan, which has gone on the grey list at least thrice just in the last decade, seems to be striving to do just enough to avoid the blacklist. In the recent past, when FATF meeting extended Pakistan’s greylisting until June 2020, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi celebrated the decision, saying that India had failed to push Pakistan into FATF’s blacklist in total disregard to the international concern on such a serious issue. Its constant blame India rhetoric for entering the grey list to cover up its intended inaction and the consequent failure to shut down all access to funding of United Nations Security Council (UNSC)-designated terrorist groups, including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, certainly point fingers towards its questionable intent.
The Pakistani establishment clearly knows that most major countries are reluctant to impose the strict banking and international finance sanctions that are presently being applied only to Iran and North Korea. The US and the UK see greater chances of incremental Pakistani cooperation through monitoring and pressure rather than the country being forced into isolation through absolute sanctions. It is also perspicacious that, others, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and UAE worry about the impact of financial sanctions on fellow Muslim Pakistanis.
From a different perspective, ideally, Pakistan would rather like to be removed from the FATF grey list, as it entails acting against the jihadi terrorist organizations and their leaders it has managed to support and protect for at least three decades now. But on the flipside the grey list is better than the blacklist, especially when Pakistan’s intent is not to shut down the jihadi outfits completely and when it knows that, since it is difficult to keep a country on the grey list forever, there is a significant likelihood that Pakistan would get off after a decent interval and a spate of superficial measures. Till such time, it will leverage on its well-practiced tactics of parrying pressure as has been amply evident since it was warned in 1992, for the first time by the Americans, about harboring and nurturing jihadi groups targeting India. Then, after the kidnapping of an American tourist by a group called Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), Pakistan banned the group, only to allow it to resurface as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Since then, a now-familiar pattern has emerged. Its officials work off a list of must do’s that helps evade the immediate pressure without permanently shutting down the favored jihadi groups. One will not be surprised if the outfits like JuD and JeM, which it has recently banned resurfaces again under some other nomenclature in the near future. What it is afraid of is financial sanctions and which its officials take seriously but only enough to calibrate their actions to fulfil legal and technical requirements of the moment. The same is evident from the recent speech of Prime Minister Imran khan during the presentation of FATF related bills in the joint session of the houses.
Terrorism is a menace and is going to remain here as long as there are states that sponsor terrorism and use terrorists as proxies for waging war against states by providing them with funds and weapons. Any country that is sponsoring terrorism has to be dealt with a heavy hand as it jeopardizes peace and harmony amongst nations. Blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and diplomatic isolation is one good measure and if these coercive measures fail to yield desired results, then more severe punitive options need to be taken. The global war on terrorism will have to continue as terror funding and money laundering as state instruments for political reasons is not going out too soon.
In the present parlance, Pakistan still needs to take a number of comprehensive actions on CFT (Combating the Financing of Terrorism) and it needs to be coerced to work with FATF and the international community to meet its CFT obligations in its entirety. It has yet to commit itself to completely freeze and prevent further raising and moving of funds belonging to or associated with UN-designated terrorist groups. It has not come clear on Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind of Mumbai blasts of 1993 that killed more than 250 people.
It still continues to fund, train and equip the terrorist outfits operating in Kashmir, India. Its terrorist training camps on its soil continues to flourish unabated under the umbrella of Pakistani military and the ISI, albeit, a little low key being its neck under the sword of FATF sanctions. So mere maintaining status quo as regards greylisting will not suffice, it will only embolden Pakistan and other such countries, who continues to pose threat to world peace. So FATF with the support of all right-thinking countries must Blacklist Pakistan till it is totally compliant on all the international norms of terror financing, money laundering and disuse of cross border terrorism as a state policy to further its political aims.
21 Sep 20/Monday Written by Azeema