By Bilal Gondal.
There has been a lot of hue and cry going on about the recently concluded Financial Action Task Force’s Plenary meeting in Paris as the U.S had moved a motion to put Pakistan on the monitoring list of the FATF. The FATF is an inter-governmental body, which was established by G-7 in 1989 with its prime objective to counter money laundering. FATF came up with 40 recommendations the very next year, however after 9/11 attacks, the group of nations sagaciously construed such activities as a threat to international peace and therefore FATF came up with another eight recommendations to fight the perils of terrorism. In 2004, a ninth recommendation was also added, making the final set of recommendations as 40 + 9. FATF monitors countries’ progress in implementing FATF’s recommendations, reviews money laundering and terror financing techniques and promotes the adoption and implementation of FATF recommendations globally.
Tracing Pakistan’s noxious encounters with FATF’s monitoring lists divulges a three-year period between 2012 and 2015 when the country was put under observation and monitoring regarding its action plan pertinent to the strategic deficiencies. However, in February 2015, FATF put Pakistan’s name under the cadre of jurisdictions which could be contemplated to have been exempted from the compliance process. Regarding the current plenary meeting, only confusions and rumors surround the mind despite a scrupulous reading of the leading newspapers and tweets of our ministers. The situation despite being ambivalent throughout the week, somehow alluded that nomination of Pakistan in the monitoring list was in the offing.
The situation, as of now is that outcomes of FATF plenary February 2018, as per the official website, makes no mention of Pakistan, but it is construed that all countries barring Turkey had agreed to put Pakistan on the watch list, therefore Islamabad is set to be grey listed in June this year. All this has ruffled feathers of a lot of people in general public and men of higher echelons in particular, which appears to me, at least, a prudent reaction, especially regarding some of the actions our authorities have taken in intense haste in a marred effort to avoid what was in the offing. Let us take a scrupulous view of the events that lead to the inevitable and inexorable.
Ever since Donald Trump has assumed office, we have seen some rapid transitions in the U.S. policy for South Asia, and his unfastened castigation for Pakistan upon her perfidy was the New Year’s gift presented via his tweet. He made it clear that Pakistan’s perfidy towards America would no longer be soaked, therefore along with a little assistance from our eastern neighbour, no international forum is, overtly or covertly, devoid of underscoring of Pakistan’s predilections with the nefarious elements in the region. No matter how perturbed we as a nation might be, but this is what our own sowed seeds could spawn- as our immensely respected Chief of Army Staff himself admitted just a few days ago.
It is not that I am needlessly castigating merely our own actions, but it is the dire need of the hour to do a little introspection because hyper patriotism built around imagined glory and misplaced hatred towards the outside world is actually one of the vices facing Pakistan.
FATF is not only an inter governmental body for financial matters, rather countering terror is the other major function of this body and it is this particular aspect, based upon which Pakistan is going to be put on the watch list in June. Hence, we need to look for our debacles in this aspect. An interesting development pertinent to our fidelity with a few of the internationally nominated terrorists and sincere efforts to take strict action against them took place in October 2016 as the infamous DAWN Leaks issue. It was the case of the news published in the newspaper regarding a senior level security meeting, where, it was claimed, the civilian leadership gave a clear message to the military to stop espousing such groups which had been labelled as terrorist outfits, as it would lead Pakistan to isolation in the international community. One needed not to be at pains to construe which individuals or organisations were being alluded. Yet no sagacious steps were taken in that regard, rather Hafiz Saeed was freed from house arrest in 2017 and was also egged on by some knowingly unknown yet immensely dominant factors to register his own political party as well, other than his already present “Falah e Insaniat Foundation” meant to carry out social activities. It is high time we construed the importance of parting ways with those nominated as Terrorist Outfits by the U.N and stopped using militants for our own vested interests as this perfidious policy would not only hamper our portrayal as a nation fighting against terrorism but also render us as being predisposed towards using militancy as our foreign policy. May I allude not to who controls our foreign policy.
Because of the tacit congruence with individuals labelled as terrorists by the United Nations, and because of the recent shift in policy of the U.S which has now shown predilection towards a more unsympathetic attitude regarding its South Asian policy, particularly targeting the perfidious role of our military, it was all but in the offing that Pakistan would have to face music in the plenary meeting of FATF going on in Paris. Therefore “our boys” tried to play smart by taking some steps which even the nascent of minds could construe as to have been designed by someone who could not see further than the end of nose but some circles are still hailing it as ‘The Bajwa Doctrine’. What actually happened was something ‘the boys’ love the most to do—bypassing parliament. More than a thousand troops were immediately sent to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in an attempt to please the Saudi Royal Family, seeking their vote in the FATF meeting. Had they paid a little insight into the consequences of this decision: Pakistan’s further miring up in the Iran-Saudi conflict, such a prudent decision would never have been implemented. One ponders upon the need of sending troops when a 41-country military coalition is already stationed in the Middle East under the leadership of Raheel Shareef. Moreover, the Parliament had previously reached at a consensus regarding the Yemen crisis that Pakistan would observe impartiality and would only provide military aid when there is an imminent threat to the Holy lands of Makkah or Madinah. Yet this hasty decision was made, bypassing parliament, only with a flawed yearning of avoiding FATF’s watch list using Saudia’s support, all such sentiments being obviously shattered by Saudia’s decision to support U.S. motion.
The other step that our government took was relatively wise, but one may question its timing whether things had already gone out of hands when they took the sagacious decision of barring the banned outfits like Falah e Insaniat Foundation from collecting charity. All this being a manifestation of repudiation of the notion of Pakistan’s fidelity with the nefarious elements. The decision was made in the National Executive Committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Mr. Miftah Ismaeel, the advisor to P.M on Financial Affairs alluded to the seriousness of the matter of disassociation with such banned outfits, by terming it an international obligation. Hence it can be construed that people at the helm of affairs had been at pains in the recent months to attempt the aversion of strict measures from FATF, but one wonders that at whose behest had Hafiz Saeed been released, made to chair a political party, and continue to look after LeT’s activities.
In drawing things to an end, let us look at where exactly do we stand, and what must we do in an attempt to circumvent such awkward situations in future. As of now, Pakistan has not been mentioned in the recommendations made by this plenary meeting, but would be nominated to be kept under observation by FATF in the next meeting. That would mean that FATF would provide us with certain targets and methods to achieve those targets, all of which, obviously pertinent to fighting money laundering scandals and terror financing. If Pakistan responds in affirmation and works in accordance with their recommendations during the period of observation, FATF would remove Pakistan’s name from the watch list, as was the erstwhile case of Pakistan in 2015. However, failing to do so, would spawn serious issues, as FATF would call on its member states as well as the international financing bodies like the World Bank to apply counter measures to the country. We must not mingle all of this issue with the failure of financial policies presently, because whole lot of this debacle is primarily associated with our policy regarding espousing certain nominated terrorists and deploying them as our foreign policy tool. Therefore, we must ensure that the valiant efforts of our soldiers in the struggle against terrorists must not go in vain. The dire need of the hour is to decontaminate ourselves from the stains of laying sympathies with suspicious groups. Hence, if the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Haqqani Network are actually guilt free, it would be prudent not to establish it at international forums, or else, go savage against them rather than allowing one to launch a political party and granting the other a fund worth 275 million(the erstwhile fund being of 300 million). One last point worth mentioning here is that our authorities must pay heed to consequences of short-sighted and unparliamentary decisions like sending of troops to Saudi Arabia. Even not disclosing the location of troops to the parliament, supposedly the most sovereign institution in the country, does raise eye-brows, as we are already engaged in the war against terrorism, hence we just cannot afford to indulge ourselves in fighting someone else’s war.
Bilal Gondal hails from Islamabad and by profession he is a Engineer from NUST, Islamabad.