Pakistan’s compliance evaluation by the Asia Pacific Group (APG), a regional body of the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is only 10 days away. The government has reportedly prepared a list of actions in response to the 27-point FATF action plan.
The official document prepared for the APG review presumably lists official takeover of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamaat ud Dawa and their affiliated entities in entirety, the madrassa mainstreaming plans, and stricter control/monitoring regimes to curb terrorist financing and money laundering.
Will this document be able to convey the required ‘real understanding’, within various arms of government, of the FATF action plan?
Will the government’s claim it has taken over the management of all those seminaries with suspected direct or ideological links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh stand the scrutiny of the APG?
Will the anti-money laundering drive draw applause from the APG as some high-profile cases continue to linger on, with no logical end in sight?
Will the government, despite the Indian efforts to politicise the forum, convince the APG that it is pursuing a whole-of-government approach to fully implement the action plan by September?
These uneasy questions, accompanied by dozens of supplementaries, will keep challenging the government’s anti-terror financing and anti-money laundering commitments under the action plan. Why? Because the FATF process lacks ownership within governance tiers. Having been under the FATF radar since 2008, Pakistan still has no permanent experts to deal with, monitor and respond to all FATF-related matters. No real ownership of the process is the primary issue.
Before the prime minister signs off the latest performance action plan report, he will do well to appoint a permanent national coordinator/focal person who can become the owner of the process on behalf of the key ministries concerned. The focal person can not only liaise among finance, interior and foreign ministries and the SBP but also permanently monitor implementation of the action plan and give regular policy inputs. This is a standard practice world over whenever countries need to deal with a particular situation.
A national coordinator, reporting directly to the PM, will probably send a strong signal of Pakistan’s commitment to the causes that FATF espouses.
Secondly, the ministry of finance must have a dedicated technocrat – not a Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) officer – to follow implementation and be the deputy to the national coordinator.
The coordinator can also help in restoring Pakistan’s credibility among FATF member countries, in particular to bridge disconnect between policy announcements and implementation, and act as a government voice, instead of having many cooks who run the risk of spoiling the broth.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa have repeatedly reiterated – both in private and public – the policy of non-interference into the neighbouring states, which is being strictly followed, coupled with actions against all banned outfits. Gen Bajwa has reportedly told several gatherings of soldiers at divisional headquarters and units that ‘the state will not allow any Jaish or Lashkar any more’.
This marks a real change after over 15 years and the FATF review offers the country a historic chance to translate these vows into actions and demonstrate to the world that Pakistan has indeed turned the page to move from a security to a normal state. A national coordinator on FATF can indeed become the lynchpin – also the spokesperson – for such messaging on counter-terrorism measures and the long-overdue security paradigm shift.