The decision by global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) , at its plenary in Paris last week, to keep Pakistan on its “greylist” for monitoring its record against terror financing was no surprise. While the Pakistan government has yet to complete the 27-point action plan it was given in June 2018, it has, according to the FATF, made some progress. As a result, the 39-member group that includes India decided to extend Pakistan’s September 2019 deadline until June 2020. Actions Pakistan still needs to carry out include tightening security and banking restrictions to block loopholes through which designated groups including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad access funding. It also calls on Pakistan to begin prosecutions against terrorists and sanction entities that are flouting the UNSC’s rules for designated terror organisations. The FATF Chairman’s final comment says Pakistan must comply with all 27-action points — it has cleared about 14 — in the next four months or face financial strictures by being placed on the “blacklist”. Pakistan is one of 18 countries on the greylist; Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist.
The FATF’s sharp language is significant , yet according to the force’s consensus rules, Pakistan believes it might be able to slip through the deadlines if it is able to ensure that three countries, China, Turkey and Malaysia, which have pledged support, veto any move to blacklist it. Pakistan also appears to have benefited from playing a role in U.S.-Taliban talks as it seems the U.S. and its allies are not enforcing the deadline to complete the action plan as before. A senior U.S. official’s statement in January welcoming Pakistan’s progress in its FATF commitments may have set the stage for the final plenary decision. While the FATF’s Chairman’s wording was strong, it was a repetition of the threat he served Pakistan last year, and there is a danger that Pakistan, a country that has not sustained punitive action against thousands of designated terrorists and entities, will feel immunity from the process. The Pakistani court’s hurried conviction of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed on terror financing charges just before the Paris meet appeared to be a command performance, and its shocking submission to the FATF that it cannot trace Masood Azhar must be scrutinised further by the international body. Among other issues on the agenda during U.S. President Trump’s India visit, it is necessary that India raises the need to continue to hold Pakistan to account on terror, and not flag in attention just when the FATF process has begun to extract results from Islamabad.