By Vishu Adhana
New Delhi [India], June 26 (ANI): Pakistan continuing to be on the 'grey list' of the UN watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is hardly surprising given that many terrorists have been "assets of the state", according to an US scholar.
By failing to prosecute senior leaders of UN proscribed terror groups, Islamabad is yet to fulfil the toughest of the 27 conditions put forward by the FATF due to which the Paris-based UN watchdog has not yet removing Pakistan from its "grey list" of countries which are "under increased monitoring."
Pakistan has a "very sizable militant network" and it will take time for the country to dismantle it, according to Michael Kugelman, deputy director for the Asia Program at the Wilson Center.
Speaking to ANI, Kugelman wondered whether Pakistan was committed to taking action against all terrorist leaders that FATF expects it to, given that many of the terrorists have been "assets of the state".
"To its credit, Pakistan has chipped away at the 27th and final action item through a series of arrests and convictions of designated terrorist leaders. But you're looking at a country that has had a very sizable militant network, and so it will take time to dismantle it and do what needs to be done," he said.
"There is also the question of whether Pakistan is committed to taking action against all terrorist leaders that FATF expects it to. Many of these actors have been assets of the state, after all," he added.
At the end of the FATF five-day virtual plenary meeting recently, president Marcus Pleyer announced that Pakistan has completed all but one of its 27 items in an old action plan that was drawn up to tackle both money laundering and terror financing when the country was placed in the list of nations under increased monitoring or the grey list in June 2018.
According to Kugelman, the FATF's decision was the "least bit surprising" as Pakistani officials were also acknowledging that the country would not come off the watch list after the FATF plenary.
Following the FATF's announcement, Pakistan Minister for Energy, Hammad Azhar, said that the sole remaining item on financial terrorism in the FATF's original action plan would be completed in three to four months, in time for the next FATF plenary session in October.
Along with one remaining point in the main action plan, Pakistan will also have to complete the new action plan to tackle money laundering which was drawn up after FATF's regional partner, the Asia Pacific Group.
Azhar said on Friday that the seven items on the new money laundering action plan given, would be completed in 12 months.
"It is necessary to complete both plans to exit the grey list," the minister added.
Pakistan has been accused of providing safe haven to terrorists including those proscribed by the UN Security Council, such as [JeM chief] Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and (Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander) Zakirur Rahman Lakhvi.
According to the US scholar, it all depends on how far Pakistan is willing to go to take irreversible steps against these leaders and their groups.
"Will it carry out a full-scale crackdown so that all the boxes can be checked off with FATF, only to quietly ease up and release some of these terrorist leaders later on if Pakistan is removed from the grey list and there's less scrutiny? This is the big question--and it will be the biggest indication of how willing Pakistan is to shut down these militant networks, and their financing systems, once and for all," he said. (ANI)