Pakistan to focus on buying more time as it holds meeting with FATF in Beijing

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 21, 2020, 06.05 PM(IST)

File photo: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( AFP )

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Pakistan which is already on the FATF's grey list for failing to combat terror financing and money laundering is hoping to convince the body that the country has taken measures to counter these crimes in the country.

The meeting between Pakistan and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) begun in Beijing on Tuesday and according to reports, things might not be looking good for the country as it is heading to the meeting with a 400% surge in cases against eight globally banned organisations.

However, Pakistan minister of state for economic affairs Hammad Azhar and his team will defend the country's performance on 22 points given by the global watchdog at the joint group meeting starting today, with a focus on buying more time.

Pakistan which is already on the FATF's grey list for failing to combat terror financing and money laundering is hoping to convince the body that the country has taken measures to counter these crimes in the country.

In its compliance report submitted first in December 2019, and then again on 8 January 2020, which answered the 150 questions posed by the FATF regarding new Pakistani policies on money laundering, Pakistan has apprised the joint group of FATF that as many as 500 terror-financing-related cases were registered, out of which 55 ended up in conviction in the courts.

However, these might be inflated numbers. For instance one of the world's most dreaded terrorist Hafiz Saeed has 11 cases registered against him directly but Pakistan has only been able to indict him in just two cases.

Moreover, the FATF has also informed that the State Bank of Pakistan imposed penalties on defaulting banks and statutory sanctions regime was implemented. The mandatory currency declaration scheme was also implemented at all airports in the country.

The 650-page report outlined the steps taken by Pakistan between October 2019 to January 2020 to implement the group’s recommendations. In the last plenary meeting in October 2019, FATF had shown satisfaction over only five points of the action plan out of a total 27.

Expecting that the FATF may grant another relaxation to the country, probably up to June or September 2020, in its upcoming plenary review meeting in February, Pakistan is expected to argue that four months is too short a period for Pakistan to comply with all remaining 22 points of the action plan.

FATF kept Pakistan on the grey list up to February 2020 and it is trying to avoid blacklisting by the body.

The face-to-face meeting in Beijing will continue for three days till January 23 before the FATF's upcoming plenary meeting which will be held in Paris.

Pakistan faces three possibilities, either exclusion from the grey list and placement on the white; the grey-list status quo for up to June or September; or blacklisting in the worst-case scenario.

Pakistan has so far successfully managed to avoid the blacklist due to diplomatic support from China, Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and middle-east countries.

Meanwhile, Pakistan reached out to the United States to help it get out of FATF's grey-list. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited Washington DC last week and in a press briefing said that Pakistan hoped US would back its efforts to get it off the list at the FATF's Beijing meeting.

Qureshi also met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien over the issue.