Mehtab Karan Singh
It is business as usual so far as Pakistan and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is concerned. In the periodic ritual of reassessing Pakistan’s position the organisation has, once again, maintained the status quo of keeping the country on the “Grey List.” Pakistan, as usual, has taken some superficial actions to get its name cut from the Grey List. In order to reduce pressure Pakistan, a little before the plenary session was due, formulated a brazen plan of getting a lower court to convict the terrorist Hafiz Saeed for two terror crimes. , the conviction also coincided with the visit of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to Pakistan. The sentence holds no consequence since it is liable for appeal in a higher court, but, is was enough for the friends of Pakistan in the FATF to bring down the pressure and see the country continuing in the Grey List for another six months. Blacklisting was deemed to be a more appropriate action by many members of the organisation.
Unwavering support by China is the predominant factor that comes to the aid of Pakistan in the FATF meetings. In the latest instance also the FATF Plenary held on February, 19 and February, 20, was chaired by the Chinese President of the organisation, Xiangmin Liu.
A big difference was that, this time round, the FATF was quite vocal in its censure of Pakistan. Its press release dated February, 21, expressed, “concerns about Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the terrorist financing risks emanating from the jurisdiction.”
The dissatisfaction was followed by a warning to Pakistan to attend to the actionable items on the agenda, failing which, stricter action would be considered in the next plenary to be held in June 2020.
Pakistan, however, is quite used to such threats that it has been facing since 2018, when it first came on the Grey List (as on earlier occasions too). It has taken an obdurate position of making only cosmetic efforts to reverse the situation. It probably does not look for the foreign investments that the FATF can stop since not much is coming or is expected to come, in any case. Its larger interest lies in staying out of the Black List which good friend China is in a position to ensure; hence, the very apparent ambivalence in its position.
As things stand Pakistan is convinced that the FAFT pressure is because of the insistence of US President on the country taking affirmative action against terrorism. Instead of looking at the insistence with the degree of seriousness that it requires, Pakistan is depending upon heavy lobbying to turn the situation around to its favour. It has a strong belief that it will succeed considering that the current year will witness Presidential elections in the US and President Trump will need Pakistan’s support to deliver on Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Pakistan is managing to mull along despite a precarious financial position and restrictions on support due to FATF listing. The question is how? Once again the biggest financial bailout is coming from China and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In his article, “Pakistan: Terror and Impunity – Analysis,” the author, Ajit Kumar Singh, notes that IMF made a lot of noises about an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for about US $6 billion being given to Pakistan “subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners’ financial commitments”. Among other commitments, Pakistan was expected to continue “anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism efforts.” None of this has happened, Pakistan continues to remain on the FATF Grey List, and yet, on July 3, 2019, the Executive Board of the IMF approved the EFF. Under such circumstances what reason has Pakistan got to dismantle its terror sponsoring infrastructure?
More than the Grey List, it is the blacklisting by the FATF that is a devastating nightmare for Pakistan. The country, however, is convinced that such a situation will not come by. It feels that it can leverage the political nature of the FATF to conduct horse trading that is excels in and stay afloat. After all, only three out of the 36 votes in the organisation can keep it out of the blacklist and such support is available in the form of China, Malaysia and Turkey. It is, therefore, looking only at getting itself removed from the Grey List with political lobbying and engineering of absentations etc.
Many in the world feel that an upgrade of the country to the Black List would be justified. After all, if Iran can figure in the Black List then why not Pakistan with its unending resource of Islamic militants/terrorists and militant warlords like Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Azar Masood etc. It is apparent that Pakistan has its roadmap for neutralising the FATF threat chalked out, even as the world remains ambivalent to the threats posed.
India is directly affected by the terror activities that emanate from Pakistani soil and needs to move fast and strong if she wishes to expose the malevolent designs of Pakistan. The need of the hour is to strongly expose the direct involvement of the notorious Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in all terrorist activities directed against India and in the support of militancy in Afghanistan. India also needs to emphasise its concerns regarding the fake Indian currency racket being run by Pakistan. The Pakistani proclivity to play the victim card needs to be exposed for its inherent duplicity.
Upon India now rests the mantle of generating a global consensus with regard to Pakistani involvement in proliferation of international terrorism. The recent very successful visit of US President Donald Trump to India, during which the need for the two countries to jointly fight terrorism has been emphasized, should form the basis of renewed efforts by India to bring Pakistan to the dock not only in FATF but in other global forums as well.
(Mehtab is a geo-strategic analyst and columnist)