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FATF plenary begins; Pakistan unlikely to exit 'grey' list

For India, the decision of the plenary will have long term ramifications

FATF logo and the Pakistan flag | Reuters FATF logo and the Pakistan flag | Reuters

Will Pakistan get off the grey list? This question looms large for Pakistan as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary began on Monday. 

For India—pushing for stricter monitoring of Pakistan—the decision of the plenary has long term ramifications. One of the areas that Pakistan still needs to act—that the FAFT had pointed out in its meeting last October—was not sufficient action against the UN-proscribed terrorists like Mazoor Azhar. This is an area of concern for India. However, as Pakistan had made “significant progress”  in the 21 points of the 27 points list, the terror watch-dog had allowed for more time to address “strategic deficiencies’’. 

“Today marks the start of the latest FAFT plenary, which will weigh in on Pakistan’s status. The issue isn’t whether it’ll be blacklisted (it won’t), but more so if it comes off the “gray list”. A good chance it'll stay, given members views that some Action Plan items not complete,’’ tweeted Michael Kugelman Deputy director at the Asia Programme South Asia at the Wilson Centre.

India might be working for more strident measures on Pakistan—even a discussion on putting it on the blacklist. But with the support of China, Turkey and Malaysia to Pakistan, this scenario is unlikely. Pakistan is, however, hopeful that it might manage to get off the list.

This might not be easy. Or immediate. Even in the best case scenario—which is not very likely—if Pakistan does manage to convince the FAFT that it has complied with every suggestion—to get off the increased monitoring list, an on-site visit will be necessary. Only post a visit—and submitting of the report—that Pakistan can hope to get off the list. So, till June—provided Pakistan makes a very compelling case—the grey status is not going to change.

But beyond compliance, which Pakistan has to demonstrate, there are other issues too. Members like India might want stricter rules.

There are simmering tensions between France and Pakistan—a diplomatic row broke out between the two countries in November when Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari controversially tweeted that French President Emmanuel Macron treated  Muslims in his country like Nazis had treated Jews during World War II. Mazari later deleted the tweet. However, the relations soured. America has reacted strongly to the acquittal of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and two others by the Supreme Court in the Daniel Pearl murder case. 

Earlier this month, 36 US Congress members wrote to the Pakistan’s Ambassador in the US to undertake a full review of the acquittal. In the strongly-worded letter, the members have stated that "in  pursuit of justice for Daniel Pearl and the countless others who have been murdered by acts of terrorism, it is incumbent upon us to urge you to do your utmost to ensure that the Government of Pakistan conducts a full review of the acquittal in the case of Daniel Pearl." 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement, said that the US is prepared to prosecute Sheikh in America. While the Daniel Pearl case has no bearing on the FAFT action plan, the verdict has ramifications on Pakistan taking terrorism cases seriously. America is also aware of India’s sensitivity about cross0-border terrorism and is might not be too keen to push for Pakistan to be removed from the grey list. Till Thursday, the jury is out.


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