Tuesday, February 7

(Pakistan one step away from exiting FATF grey list: Hina Khar)

ISLAMABAD:Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar has said that Pakistan is now “one step away” from exiting the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list”, and the planned on-site visit is a procedural requirement.

Addressing a news conference here in Islamabad on Saturday after leading Pakistan’s delegation to the FATF Plenary Meeting in Berlin, she pointed out that the Financial Action Task Force has duly recognized our tremendous progress and commitment to improve our international anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism and proliferation (AML/CFT) standards.

She said the 2018 action plan has been closed with no pendency of action on part of Pakistan whilst the action plan of 2021 was completed a year ahead of the prescribed timelines.

As a result of this remarkable achievement, the Minister of State said the FATF has now authorized an onsite visit of its technical team to Pakistan to validate the process of implementation of reforms. It marks the beginning of the end process that will eventually culminate in the exit of Pakistan from the grey list.

She said we are working closely with the FATF to arrange the on-site visit at mutually convenient dates, with a view to conclude the entire process at the earliest and before the next FATF plenary in October this year.

Hina Rabbani Khar stressed that Pakistan’s cooperation with the FATF and the international community is grounded in our strategic objective of strengthening our economy and further improving its integration with the international financial system. She was confident that this good news from FATF will restore confidence in our economy and improve investment climate.

The Minister of State also acknowledged the tireless efforts put in by all the teams to achieve the strenuous, difficult and complicated targets. She said this was indeed a whole of the country response as multiple ministries, departments and agencies at all levels of the government contributed to this national cause.

She also conveyed her gratitude to the international partners and friends for their understanding, support and cooperation throughout the process. She said Pakistan is in a position that it will not only sustain its trajectory of reforms into the future but can also provide guidance and technical support to other countries in this area.

She said Pakistan earned this place through its consistent work. We have not only honored our commitments but over performed. Responding to a question, the Minister of State said that Pakistan has always emphasized that the FATF must be apolitical and technical in its conduct.

She termed the FATF’s acknowledgement “no less than a herculean feat and a remarkable achievement”. Talking about the on-site visit, Hina Rabbani Khar said it was part of the procedure for removing Pakistan from the “grey list” and would validate the process of implementation of reforms.

She expressed confidence that the FATF’s acknowledgement would boost confidence in Pakistan’s economy and give it a much-needed boost and improve the investment climate. She also advised caution in sharing FATF-related developments, saying the “urge to share news has harmed us in the past”. She noted that the government had been “very, very careful” by allowing the plenary to announce its decision before sharing it.

Removal from the “grey list” would be a new beginning, she continued, adding that Pakistan would then look towards strengthening its systems according to its own requirements as opposed to reporting to others.

Responding to a question, Hina Rabbani Khar acknowledged that Pakistan was the only country asked to complete two action plans. “It was quite unprecedented. We were, in fact, the only country that had two simultaneous action plan to implement. It was tedious, arduous, it was difficult. There was a legal framework to take care of, there were amendments to do and then there was institutionalisation of new laws, the building of structures and the system.”

In response to another question regarding why it took a long time for the achievement, the minister of state said the process was very intensive and the action plan had minute details that required the country to take action at many different levels which is why it was time-consuming. The process had strengthened Pakistan’s system and enabled it to appear as a responsible country, Hina Rabbani Khar added.

She said the incumbent government was “willing to share credit with whoever wants a piece of the pie” as the implementation of the action plan was done over several years. “If I will give credit to anyone, it will be my team, and by that, I mean Pakistan’s team, because we are representing the state of Pakistan right now. I will give credit to every member of the team who is visible and in the background,” she said.

“Let’s not be overly celebratory right now. The process has started and the on-site visit is due, and even after that our journey will continue, the strengthening of legislation and administration will continue.”

She said that going after people involved in terror financing was part of the country’s national agenda and emphasized that the purpose of whatever reforms were being undertaken was the national interest.

The Minister of State was also asked whether there had been political motivation for keeping Pakistan on the “grey list” to which she replied that while the country had always emphasized the FATF should remain apolitical, certain countries were “involved” in trying to maintain Pakistan’s status on the list.

“A certain, singular country, at least that we all can name, has always tried to make this process a political one and been a spanner in the wheel, and to realize that we got this through consensus in the presence of that certain country. We have to be whiter than others but it shows how much we have achieved.”

Hina Raabani Khar said that Pakistan had “of course raised” the “leaking” of FATF-related developments prior to the plenary’s conclusion. “There are very strong confidentiality rules. The FATF takes it very, very seriously. You are actually endangering the credibility of the country when you do that.”

It may be recalled that while announcing the FATF’s decision on Friday, FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer acknowledged the reforms implemented by the country, saying “they are good for the stability and security of the country”.

He, however, added that “Pakistan is not being removed from the grey list today. The country will be removed from the list if it successfully passes the on-site visit”. Pleyer said Pakistan would have to ensure [during the visit] that it effectively tackled money laundering and funding of terrorist groups.