Saturday Jun 18 2022
BDBusiness Desk

'Never again': Khar vows white-listed Pakistan won't make the same mistakes

BDBusiness Desk

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar addressing a post-FATF-verdict press conference on June 18, 2022 in Islamabad. — APP
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar addressing a post-FATF-verdict press conference on June 18, 2022 in Islamabad. — APP

  • Pakistan now in a position to not only sustain trajectory of reforms but provide guidance to other countries, says minister.
  • Khar reveals authorities concerned are closely working with FATF to arrange their team’s visit at “mutually convenient dates”.
  • She highlights Pakistan was the only country "in history of FATF" which simultaneously implemented two action plans.

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday expressed confidence that Pakistan will formally exit the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) soon and vowed that a subsequently white-listed Pakistan will "never again" make the mistakes it made in the past regarding its response to terrorism.

Khar was addressing a press conference following an announcement last night by the Financial Action Task Force (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 by a journalist on 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, Khar said: "Nothing remains an internal issue when it has problematic repercussions."

Explainer: What will it mean for Pakistan to be removed from the FATF grey list?

"The lesson learnt is never again. Not for the sake of others, but for [our own sake]."

'Speedy progress appreciated'

The state minister 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".

"Because as you can see, the first action plan took us much longer while this one was completed before the set timeline and this was something which was very well recognised throughout the plenary by all the members,” she said.

“Pakistan’s positive and speedy progress was greatly appreciated and welcomed by FATF members,” the state minister for foreign affairs added.

Read more: PM Shehbaz congratulates nation as Pakistan 'substantially completes' FATF action plans

Khar said that FATF has acknowledged the completion of both action plans, the progress made and recognised Pakistan’s commitment to improve its AML/CFT position.

Pakistan 'one step away' from exiting grey list

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 — 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.

Elaborating on the nitty-gritties of the entire procedure, the state minister emphasised that the on-site visit is “a part of the procedure” of taking Pakistan out of the grey list. “When you authorise a country’s removal from the grey list, the first step is you authorise an on-site technical evaluation which has been done in this plenary,” she stressed.

Read more: 'Team that synergised implementation of FATF's action plan made Pakistan proud'

“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, InshaAllah,” she added.

"It marks the beginning of the end process that will eventually culminate in the exit of Pakistan from the FATF’s grey list, InshaAllah and hopefully forever,” she said.

When will the on-site visit take place?

Regarding the dates of the on-site evaluation, Khar said that the authorities concerned are closely working with the FATF to arrange their team’s visit at “mutually convenient dates” with a view to conclude the entire process before the October plenary.

A 'cross-government effort'

“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.”

Taking the opportunity, 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.

Read more: Breakthrough expected in Pakistan-IMF talks 'in 72 hours'

“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.”

The state minister 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 emphasised.

"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.

Pakistan 'ahead of the curve'

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.

Read more: Pakistan steps up diplomatic efforts to get off FATF grey list

"I know we are [not only] far ahead regarding the financial regulations system — CFT and AML legislation — within the region, but we are also doing good when you compare us to international benchmarks."

"I am sure we will be fully prepared for the on-site visit and will exit the grey list at the earliest," she said.

Urge to share news 'harmed Pakistan' in the past

“I want to emphasise one thing that we 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.

Pakistan 'only country' to implement two action plans

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."

Read more: KSE-100 index closes week in green on hopes of removal from FATF’s grey list

"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.

Why the delay in Pakistan's exit?

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.

"We have always emphasised that the FATF must remain apolitical, technical and impartial," she said, in response to whether a particular country was behind the long process.

“I feel you should be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” she said, highlighting that this was reflective on how this government raised this issue.

Khar acknowledged that this preparation was in the works for the last many years and the incumbent government was "willing to share credit with whoever wants a piece of the pie" because this a "battle for Pakistan".

Emphasising that Pakistan should be forward-looking and shouldn't engage in debates, but rather let by-gones be by-gones, Khar said: "If I will give credit to anyone, it will be my team, and by that, I mean Pakistan's team, because we are representing the state of Pakistan right now. I will give credit to every member of the team who is visible and in the background."

Khar reiterated: "Let's not be overly celebratory right now. The process has started and the on-site visit is due, and even after that our journey will continue, the strengthening of legislation and administration will continue."

Much achieved despite singular country's ill efforts

The minister was also asked whether there had been a political intention for keeping Pakistan on the "grey list" to which she replied that while the country had always emphasised the FATF should remain apolitical, certain countries were involved in trying to maintain Pakistan's status on the list.

"A certain, singular country, at least that we all can name and emphasise, has always tried to make this process a political one and been a spanner in the wheels, and to realise 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.