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EDITORIAL: It’s ironic that a FATF (Financial Action Task Force) team was on a rather low-profile visit to Pakistan recently, to monitor compliance ahead of the watchdog’s crucial meeting in Paris next month, just when terror-related cases started rising once again in KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). And while Pakistan has found all such visits “smooth” and expected their outcome to be “logical”, just like this time, the fact is that the visiting team found the country’s performance somewhat unsatisfactory — “low” in its words — on 10 out of 11 goals related to money laundering and terror financing, even though it is compliant on 38 out of 40 “technical recommendations”.

Fortunately, this is not expected to have any direct bearing on Pakistan’s expected exit from the grey list in October, but let us not forget that we found ourselves first on the list and then unable to leave it for not entirely technical reasons; even if we did have considerable terror-financing and money laundering issues to begin with. It is expected, therefore, that since the country has met all technical requirements for more than six months now, it will not be asked to “do more” one more time. And since the taskforce has put it through a grueling and frustrating half-decade, in which its ability to raise finances in the international market suffered because of it, it’s time for it to decide without any influence from some member countries known to be openly hostile to Pakistan’s interests.

To give credit where it’s due, the previous PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) administration pursued this matter with a lot of purpose and commitment, and it’s not entirely fair that results are taking so long to come. Authorities will have to make sure that the rising tide of terrorism is crushed with full and decisive force, though, because there’s no telling what kind of noise some stakeholders are going to make about resurgent terrorism and alleged terror financing in these lands. These are fragile times for the country, especially the economy, because the devastation from the floods has increased the need to borrow more from outside, and the last thing we need is another unnecessary snub that keeps us on the grey list.

Hopefully, the government’s optimism is not misplaced and it was able to convince the monitoring team that all crucial requirements have finally been met. It would have helped if they were a little more open about their findings, but such is the nature of the bureaucracy that runs such overarching international institutions that nothing is known till the last moment. And since the Pakistani side has no more presentations to make, it will have to travel all the way to Paris in a few weeks just to hear the verdict. It could, and should, use this time to clamp down hard on the unrest festering in the north. These insurgents are being funded from somewhere, after all, and whoever is sending them the money is clearly routing it through Afghanistan, so there is at least one more very visible financial lifeline to break, especially since it is responsible for renewed death and destruction in Pakistan that can very easily spill over into other countries as well; just as FATF and the like fear every time there is violence in this country.

Over time Pakistani authorities have come to understand such trends only too well. That is all the more reason for them to be ahead of the curve when it comes to things even remotely related to terrorism and terror-financing. We are, finally, within touching distance of a permanent exit from the FATF grey list. We must do everything in our power to make sure things go our way this time.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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