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ISLAMABAD: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021 and decided to keep the country in grey list and country largely addressed 21 out of 27 action plans.

The three-day FATF plenary meetings to review Pakistan's progress on 27 action plans that concluded on Friday updated on its website that to date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items. As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021.

The plenary noted that Pakistan, since June 2018, made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counterterrorist financing-related deficiencies.

Pakistan's continued political commitment has led to progress in a number of areas in its action plan, taking action to identify and sanction illegal MVTS, implementing cross-border currency and BNI controls, improving international cooperation in terrorist financing cases, passing amendments to the ATA to increase the sanctioning authority, financial institutions implementing targeted financial sanctions and applying sanctions for AML/CFT violations, and controlling facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons and entities.

Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including; (1) demonstrating that law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities; (2) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; (3) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all 1267 and 1373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, preventing the raising and moving of funds including in relation to NPOs, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services; and (4) demonstrating enforcement against TFS violations, including in relation to NPOs, of administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases.

Meanwhile, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar tweeted that Pakistan has achieved impressive progress on its FATF action plan. 21 out of 27 action items now stand cleared. The minister said that remaining six rated as partially complete. Within a year, we progressed from 5/27 to 21/27 completed items. FATF acknowledged that any blacklisting is off the table now. He added that instead of current Action Plan, discussions remained focused on how Pakistan can be facilitated for our upcoming 2nd evaluation (MER), due mid next year. I congratulate our federal and provincial teams who have worked day and night even during the pandemic to ensure this turn around, the minister added.

Finance Ministry said in a press release that FATF has reviewed Pakistan's progress on FATF action plan in its Plenary meeting on 23rd October 2020, and has acknowledged that Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now 'largely addressed' 21 of the 27 action items. The FATF has taken note of the significant progress made by Pakistan on a number of action plan items. Recognising Pakistan's sustained and irreversible efforts on implementation of FATF Action Plan, the FATF has upgraded overall 9 Action Plan items in its October 2020 Plenary. There is no item remaining in the 'incomplete' category. It is pertinent to mention here, prior to this plenary, Pakistan had addressed 14 out of 27 items and now FATF reviewed compliance of remaining 13 Action Plan Items during current plenary.

The action plan items that have been addressed by Pakistan include highly important areas of Financial Sector, illegal Hawala/Hundi, cross-border currency regime, international cooperation in terrorist financing cases, amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, implementation of targeted financial sanctions by financial institutions, applying sanctions for AML/CFT violations, and controlling facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons and entities. This is indicative of the confidence of FATF on the efforts of Pakistani Government.

However, in view of the 6 items in 'Partially Addressed' category, the plenary meeting decided to maintain status quo with respect to classification of Pakistan, for the time being. Considerable work has already been carried-out on these six items. Pakistan shall continue to make efforts to complete the remaining items in line with its strategy by February 2021. FATF will undertake the next review of Pakistan's Progress in February 2021.

The Plenary meetings of FATF were held virtually from 18-23 October 2020, where its members discussed a variety of topics including Pakistan's progress. The Pakistan team led by Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister of Industries and Production, attended these virtual meetings. Pakistan presented its case in an effective manner and also reaffirmed its political commitment to continue with the efforts to complete the Action Plan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020