Pakistan Unlikely to Exit 'Grey List' as FATF Meets to Decide its Fate: Report

Pakistan is unlikely to exit the 'grey list' of the FATF as some European countries have taken the stand that Islamabad has not fully implemented all the points of a plan of action set by it, a media report said on Sunday, on the eve of the plenary meeting of the global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force had placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual FATF plenary will be held in Paris from February 22 to 25 to consider cases of various countries on the grey list, including Pakistan, and a decision will be made at the conclusion of the meetings, Dawn newspaper reported. In the last plenary held in October 2020, the FATF concluded that Pakistan will continue in its grey list till February 2021 as it has failed to fulfil six out of 27 obligations of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog that include failure to take action against two of India's most wanted terrorists Jaish-e Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Jamaat-ud-Dawah head Hafiz Saeed.

Azhar and Saeed are most wanted terrorists in India for their involvement in numerous terrorist acts, including 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and bombing of a CRPF bus at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir last year. An official source close to these developments told the paper on Saturday that Pakistan had complied with the six recommendations and also submitted details to the FATF secretariat.

The members would now evaluate Pakistan's responses during the meeting, the source said, adding that the decision would be taken after a consensus among the members. The paper, quoting a journalist covering the FATF said that some European countries, especially the host France, had recommended to the FATF to continue to keep Pakistan on the grey list and had taken the position that not all points had been fully implemented by Islamabad.

Other European countries are also supporting France, he said. France was not happy with the recent response of Islamabad on the cartoon issue, he said.

Pakistan has not even posted a regular ambassador in Paris, he said, adding that diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries were not up to the mark. The US has also expressed concern over the acquittal the accused in American journalist Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and murder case.

It is feared that the US may also lobby for continuation of Islamabad on the grey list at least until June this year. Pakistan's Supreme Court last month ordered release of British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides in the 2002 Pearl murder case, a judgement denounced by the American journalist's family as "a complete travesty of justice.".

An official, who is not willing to be quoted, told the paper that Pakistan had submitted a compliance report to the FATF. We can't say what will be their response to it; let's wait for the day, he said.

The official said Pakistan had already done major legislation regarding punishment of terror financing, which was around one year in the old legislation. In October 2020, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, who is the government's point man on the FATF, announced that Pakistan had made progress across all action plan items and had now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items.

When the minister was approached for comments on the implementation status of the remaining six recommendations, he said he would make no comment until the plenary was over. There is a strict confidentiality rule, he said.

With Pakistan's continuation in the 'grey' list, it is increasingly becoming difficult for Islamabad to get financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the debt-ridden nation which is in a precarious financial situation. 



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