ISLAMABAD - An international agency fighting illicit financing has urged Pakistan to deliver on its remaining commitments by February 2021 to curb money laundering and funding sources to terrorist groups.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) met Friday at its headquarters in Paris and reviewed Islamabad's progress under an internationally agreed upon action plan.
"The plenary recognized that Pakistan has made progress. The government has now completed 21 of 27 items of its action plan," Marcus Pleyer, the FATF president, told a post-meeting online news conference. "Pakistan remains on our increased monitoring list, the so-called gray list."
The gray list comprises nations that have weak mechanisms to counter the financing of terrorism but agree to work with FATF to address their deficiencies.
Pakistan was placed on the watch list in 2018, making foreign firms more cautious about investing in the South Asian nation, which is dealing with a struggling economy and a balance-of-payment crisis.
Since taking office two years ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, however, has taken administrative and legislative steps to tighten controls over money laundering and terror funding in its bid to come off of the gray list.
'Very serious deficiencies'
"It definitely means the world has become safer. But the six outstanding items are very serious deficiencies that still have to be repaired," Pleyer acknowledged when asked if Pakistan still faces the risk of being moved to the FATF's so-called black list.
The black list comprises countries considered noncooperative and supportive of terror financing as well as money laundering activities. Placement on that list triggers international economic sanctions and restriction in the nations' dealings with foreign lending institutions.
Iran and North Korea are the only two currently blacklisted countries.
Pleyer said that the FATF members had decided "by consensus" that Pakistan needed to work on the six outstanding items before his agency would consider sending its team for an "on-site visit" to review progress and determine whether to remove the country from the gray list.
"As long as we see that the country is progressing with the action items - and we have seen progress with Pakistan - we give them a chance to repair the outstanding issues," Pleyer said when asked whether FATF has set a deadline for the country to comply with all the commitments.
Pakistan swiftly welcomed Friday's announcement by the global agency.
"This is indicative of the confidence of FATF on the efforts of Pakistani government," said a Finance Ministry statement issued in Islamabad. It noted that the government had already carried out "considerable work" on the remaining six items in the action plan.
"Pakistan shall continue to make efforts to complete the remaining items in line with its strategy by February 2021. FATF will undertake the next review of Pakistan's progress in February 2021," the ministry said.