Pakistan is on the verge facing "strong action" by the international terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as the country is likely to be put in the 'Dark Grey' list, the last warning to improve. The 'Dark Grey' list is the last warning given to non-complying countries after which they will be blacklisted by the organisation.
With the looming risk of being placed on the FATF blacklist with Iran and North Korea facing them, a delegation led by Pakistan's economic affairs minister is currently presenting its case before the financial watchdog on the measures taken by Islamabad to curb terror financing and money laundering.
Pakistan was placed on the grey list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force in June last year and was given a plan of action to complete it by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the blacklist.
The Paris-based body is reviewing the progress made by Pakistan until April this year, during the FATF Week, which began on 13 October and will conclude by 16 October. The review will determine if Pakistan stays on the grey list or moved on the blacklist or given a clean chit.
Though the Asia Pacific Group (APG) subgroup has recommended Pakistan to be downgraded to the blacklist due to its "poor performance" to tackle terror funding despite warnings, the international watchdog is likely to keep Islamabad in the 'Dark Grey' list. The FATF is currently headed by China, a close associate of Pakistan while Malaysia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also members, which are too close friends with Pakistan. Hence China, Malaysia and Turkey are most likely to vote against a downgrade for Islamabad.
Government should have acted sooner
While the Pakistani government scrambles to try to prove why it shouldn't be blacklisted, most Pakistani media houses have slammed the government for not taking stringent action against terror financing sooner. In an editorial by Pakistan Today opined: "It was only when Pakistan was placed on the FATF grey list last year that action against proscribed organisations such as the LeT/JuD and JeM became necessary." The article criticises the Pakistani government of not paying heel to US' advice of "prosecuting the arrested and prevent militant groups from operating on its soil for its own future," with a special reference to top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives along with its leader Hafiz Saeed.
The News, A Pakistani English language newspaper urged the government to downgrade from the 'Grey' list to the 'Green' list, stating that even continuance in the grey list would mean downgrading by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the ADB, the EU, which would further deepen the financial woes of the country.
Dunya News TV reported that analysts have termed implementation on FATF's recommendations "necessary" if Pakistan were to get the next instalment of the IMF loan.
FATF 'satisfied' with Pakistan
But, the local media has also supported the government for not being blacklisted yet. According to Pakistan daily The Nation, the FATF has reviewed the risk assessment study submitted by Pakistan and has expressed satisfaction. It further claimed that Pakistan's "brotherly" countries China, Turkey and Malaysia have come out in support of Pakistan's favour. According to the report, sources told the national daily that FATF "appreciated" efforts of Pakistan against terrorism and corruption. It alleged that Pakistani delegation gave satisfactory answers to all questions of FATF and also answered "satisfactorily" to Indian members on questions about active terror bases in Pakistan.
In 2019, Pakistan has made "significant improvement" in its fight against money laundering and terror financing as per international standards reports The News. Another newspaper, The Daily Times reported that sources close to the matter said that during the past eight months, Pakistan has "fully focused" on the agendas given by the FATF and hence, there are no concerns of Pakistan being included in the blacklist.
Clearly, the local media is in support of the Pakistan government's measures to stay away from being blacklisted, as they all realise the diar repercussions of the damage it can do to an already crumbling economy. As the government pulls at all strings to stay in the 'Grey' list at most, it remains to be seen what will be the exact verdict with its ally China preceding over the FATF meetings, and the final verdict due on 18 October.