Credit for FATF triumph belongs to state, not political party, says Pakistani minister

Hina Rabbani Khar speaks during an interview with Reuters from the lawns of her residence in Muzaffargarh, Punjab province. Reuters

Tariq Butt/NNI News

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar says Islamabad is ‘one step away’ from coming off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list as the watchdog will pay a site visit in Pakistan to validate the technical commitments.

The minister told a press conference that the FATF visit is a procedural requirement, which will result in Pakistan being removed from its notorious gray list, “hopefully forever.”

Khar added that the state was working closely with the body to arrange the visit at a mutually convenient time and aims to complete the task before the October 2022 preliminaries.

The minister also stressed that Pakistan’s commitment to strengthening financial regulation is a matter of national consensus, with the strategic objective of strengthening the economy and restoring confidence.

Khar also acknowledged the “tireless” efforts of the teams who “burned the midnight oil” to ensure that the 2018 and 2022 FATF Action Plans were completed. “It was an inter-governmental effort,” she said, adding that the success was an effort of the state of Pakistan and not of any single entity.

She expressed hope that Pakistan would be able to maintain its reform trajectory and “provide advice and technical support to other countries in the region as we are ahead of the curve.”

Khar said Pakistan would be “fully prepared” for the on-site visit. She urged the media that due to the regulator’s confidentiality requirements, not to share the news prematurely. “It has hurt our position in the past, we can never prejudge a situation,” she added.

Maintaining the government’s position, Khar said that while Pakistan was the only country to have two action plans to tackle financial regulation, it was “too early to celebrate”.

On a question regarding the political bias of the FATF, the Minister said Pakistan can be positive about its journey and said “we have been allowed to be and held accountable and we have always stressed that the FATF must remain apolitical and technical. We hope this continues.”

When asked about international interference in the process, Khar refrained from answering the question, saying, “we pointed out that the body is apolitical but there is a certain country that has made this difficult in the past”.

The minister added that Pakistan’s success lay with its national counter-terrorist financing program. “Our national and international agenda is aligned, we have learned many lessons and we never want to slip up,” she said.

When asked how “friendly ties” helped FATF’s position in Pakistan, the minister said diplomatic outreach was always a strategy. However, Khar stressed that Pakistan had “honored its commitments” and “outperformed” and therefore deserved the countries’ help.

The minister said that although there had been immense political pressure on Pakistan’s performance in the past, diplomacy was aimed at neutralizing prospects. She added that India had worked excessively to undermine Pakistan’s standing in the FATF body. However, she hinted that India’s performance did not bode well as FATF mutual evaluation reports were due soon.

When asked again who deserves credit for Pakistan’s financial performance, Khar said she felt the country was more concerned with who deserved credit rather than the FATF conference.

“We pay tribute to all who seek it, and rightly so,” she replied, adding that the performance was not the agenda of a certain political party but the agenda of Pakistan.

“We have to stay mature about it, we don’t react to immaturity with immaturity,” Khar said, adding that the incumbent government would view it as a “win-win if everyone thinks there is has an interest”.

The minister also acknowledged that Pakistan’s previous Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) government deserved credit for having a stake in the FATF action plans, “we hope every political party will continue to do so.”

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif made a phone call to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday.

During the telephone conversation, the Prime Minister congratulated Bilawal for completing the FATF-defined action plans to get out of the gray list. Shahbaz said the entire Foreign Ministry team deserves appreciation.

Meanwhile, Bilawal said he will continue to fight for Pakistan to pull the country out of all difficulties using all his efforts.

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