ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar has said that FATF’s white-listed Pakistan will never again make the mistakes it made in the past regarding its response to terrorism.
She was addressing press conference here in Islamabad on Saturday after an announcement by the FATF that Pakistan has substantially completed its two action plans and would be removed from the grey list after it passes the on-site visit to assess the implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism.
Responding to a question whether a blind eye would be turned to certain religious groups operating freely in the country and promoting “hate mongering” and whether this is considered an internal issue, she said that nothing remains an internal issue when it has problematic repercussions.
The lesson learnt is never again. Not for the sake of others, but for our own sake, Khar said.
She said that the outcome announced by the FATF yesterday was enabled through the comprehensive reforms that have been carried out in Pakistan in the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) domain and the sustained momentum of our efforts and the results of those efforts.
“Pakistan’s positive and speedy progress was greatly appreciated and welcomed by FATF members,” the state minister for foreign affairs added.
Khar said that FATF has acknowledged the completion of both action plans, the progress made and recognized Pakistan’s commitment to improve its AML/CFT position.
Sharing details of the discussions held during the plenary meeting, the minister said that the watchdog has decided by consensus that Pakistan had addressed all technical benchmarks and has completed all requirements of both action plans from 2018 and 2021.
“As a result of this, what we consider to be no less than a herculean feat and a remarkable achievement, FATF has now authorised an on-site visit of its technical team to Pakistan to validate the process of the implementation of the reforms,” she said.
The state minister emphasized that the on-site visit is a part of the procedure of taking Pakistan out of the grey list. “When you authorize a country’s removal from the grey list, the first step is you authorize an on-site technical evaluation which is expected in Oct, she stressed.
The successful completion of the FATF action plan and its formal endorsement by the watchdog, means that Pakistan is one step away from exiting the grey list, she added.
“During our interactions on the sideline of the FATF plenary, we stressed Pakistan’s high-level political commitment to strengthen our AML/CFT regime and bring it at par with the global standards,” she said, adding that the Pakistani authorities have been highlighting “complete national consensus.”
She stressed that Pakistan’s cooperation with the FATF and the international community is grounded in our own strategic objective of strengthening our economy and improving its integration with the international financial system.
“I am confident that with this good news from FATF, it will restore confidence in our economy and will give us a much-needed boost, improve the investment climate and robust AML/CFT compliance systems,” she said, highlighting the several benefits of coming out of the grey list.
“I also want to acknowledge, in fact, really want to emphasise, on the tireless efforts of teams who have done a tremendous job […] in achieving these strenuous, difficult and complicated targets.”
She further added: “This is indeed the [whole country’s] response and I think that is something to celebrate.”
Khar said that multiple departments, and agencies both at the federal and provincial levels have contributed to this national cause and “it also demonstrates that when we work together, all of the country, we can achieve sometimes what is considered to be impossible.”
“This is going to be a cross-government effort,” she emphasized.
“I really want to talk about this as this is an effort [by] the state of Pakistan; governments will come and go but Pakistan’s consensus and efforts on this, I hope, will continue in stride,” she said.
The minister said that Pakistan was now in a position to not only sustain the trajectory of reforms but also to provide guidance and technical support to other countries on the list. We are “quite a bit ahead of the curve”, she added.
She said that Pakistan as a nation must remember and respect and that is related to the issues regarding the confidentiality requirements,” she said, recalling that in the past the urge to share news as harmed the country.
The state minister highlighted that this time people would have noticed the authorities were very careful in allowing the announcement of the decision.
Any time you try to pre-judge and speak before your time it will always come back to hurt you, she said, stressing that this as a nation, not only the government, is something we need to do well in order to complete the start of the end.
“This, however, will not be the end because this will be a new beginning where Pakistan is looking towards strengthening its own systems according to its own requirements and to get out of the requirements to report to others,” she added.
Responding to a question, Khar acknowledged that Pakistan was the only country in the history of FATF” which simultaneously implemented two action plans. “It was quite unprecedented. We were, in fact, the only country that had two simultaneous action plans to implement. It was tedious, arduous, it was difficult … there was 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.”
“It’s too early to celebrate because I genuinely believe that you can’t prejudge anything. We have an on-site visit but we have started the process,” she maintained.
Replying to another question regarding why it took a long time for the achievement, the state minister 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 strengthened Pakistan’s system and enabled it to appear as a responsible country, Khar said.
On the query regarding whether there had been a political intention for keeping Pakistan on the grey list, 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 has always tried to make this process a political one and been a spanner in the wheels, and to realize that we got this through consensus in the presence of that certain country is an important point … We have to be more white than others but it shows how much we have achieved, Khar said.