Pakistan seems to be confident of getting out of the “grey list” of the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global anti-terror financing watchdog, at its next virtual plenary scheduled this week. That, at least, is the impression Pak Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been giving to the world for some time now. Mr Qureshi told a gathering at Multan recently that Pakistan will be out of the grey list “very soon” as it has complied with the FATF requirements on terror financing. He has been telephoning his counterparts in Turkey, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia ostensibly to convince them of the measures taken by Islamabad in this regard. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry also has claimed significant progress in this regard.
However, these assertions belie the reality. What Pakistan really has done are empty claims. Are those enough to meet FATF requirements? Independent global reviews indicate that a lot more remains to be done. As far as action against banned individual terrorists is concerned; Pakistan did arrest the LeT Chief Hafiz Saeed and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. But it has been telling the world that others like Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar are untraceable. Nobody believes that terrorists of such profiles can go missing in Pakistan for years. Clearly, this is a cover up to protect them. Besides, there have hardly been any convictions of UN designated terrorists connected with Al Qaida and Haqqani groups.
No one knows what happened to the 6500 terrorists identified by the UN monitoring teams report in May this year. Last year, Pakistan dropped as many as 4000 terrorists from its list formulated under its Anti-Terror Act. Those convicted are charged with lesser offences, given light punishments and released after brief imprisonments. Abdul Rehman Makki, brother in law of Hafiz Saeed involved in terror acts in India is a designated terrorist by the US in 2010 who carries 2 million dollars bounty on his head was fined Rs.20, 000 and convicted for 18 months by an anti-terror court, which was later suspended by Lahore court. Cases against terrorists are framed so casually that 196 arrested terrorists were set free by the courts last year.
Islamabad pushed through 3 anti-terror laws last month in the joint session of the Parliament but what remains to be seen is how effectively these are implemented. In any case dearth of anti-terror laws has never been the problem in Pakistan but their implementation has always been an issue. The FATF’s Asia Pacific Group (APG) review report released recently concluded that Pakistan’s progress on the 40 of the FATF recommendations on anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism remained same as last year. It said that Pakistan, despite little progress in addressing technical compliance, will therefore continue to remain in ‘enhanced’ follow-up list to which it was downgraded last year from ‘regular’ follow up and will report back to APG on the progress to strengthen its implementation of the measures.
Pakistan needs support of at least 3 of the 39 members of FATF to avoid being black listed which in the words of Prime minister Imran Khan would ruin its economy. Islamabad would need the support of at least 12 members to come out of the grey list. With China, Turkey and Malaysia standing in support, Pakistan is likely to continue in the grey list. It would be extremely difficult for Pakistan to garner support of the other 9 members needed to come out of the grey list. This would mean, Islamabad is likely to be deprived of funding by institutions like the World Bank, IMF, the Asian Development bank and European Union, thus jeopardizing its’ economic health.
The writing on the wall for Pakistan is very clear. If it is keen to come out of the grey list, it must act against the terrorists seriously. Hoodwinking and lobbying to impress the international community is not going to work.
Script: Ashok Handoo, Political Commentator