ISLAMABAD - The FATF meeting which ended in Paris on Friday did not include Pakistan in the list of countries which needed to do more on countering money laundering and combating financing for terrorism.

The plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog on money laundering and terrorism financing, issued a list after the meeting which included Ethiopia, Iraq, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu and Yemen.

There was no mention of Pakistan in the public statement issued by the FATF.

However, experts said Pakistan was not ‘out of danger’ as it could still be included in the watch list in June this year.

Earlier in the day reports claimed that Pakistan had been put on the watch list. Hours later, the FATF issued an official statement with no mention of Pakistan. Since, the money laundering and terror financing were discussed, Pakistan will have to work hard until June to avoid the tag. Pakistan has been previously on the FATF watch list from 2012 to 2015.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan had agreed to implement FAFT’s Action Plan.

An adverse FATF decision could be a blow to both Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the United States.

Only Turkey is confirmed to have opposed the US-sponsored resolution in the Paris meeting until the end. China, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council had been opposing the US-led move against Pakistan but reportedly withdrew their opposition at the last minute.

The US had spent the past week lobbying member countries of the FATF to place Pakistan on the so-called “grey list” of nations that were not doing enough to combat terrorism financing. Pakistan was previously on the list for three years until 2015. Under FATF rules one country’s opposition was not enough to prevent a motion from being successful. Britain, France and Germany backed the US move.

Addressing a weekly media briefing here on Friday, Dr Mohammed Faisal said on 20 January 2018 the US and UK jointly submitted a letter to the FATF nominating Pakistan for placement in the “grey list”.

“France and Germany subsequently joined this nomination. Pakistan has serious concerns over and objections to the introduction of this new “nomination” procedure which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of FATF,” he said.

Faisal said most of the concerns “raised by the US regarding deficiencies in our CFT/AML (Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Anti-Money Laundering) regime had already been addressed in 2015 when Pakistan got an exit from the “grey list”.

He said in 2009 FATF identified “strategic deficiencies” in Pakistan’s AML/CFT regime. “To overcome these deficiencies, Pakistan agreed to implement FAFT’s Action Plan. As a consequence, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced a comprehensive set of new rules and guidelines on CFT/AML,” he said.

Faisal said ‘stand alone legislation’ on money laundering was also enacted by the parliament to deal with AML issues. Moreover, he said, an operationally independent and administrative financial monitoring unit was established under the AML law with the sole mandate of receiving, analysing and disseminating Suspicious Transaction Reports and Currency Transaction Reports.

“Investigative powers in relation to AML/CFT have been assigned to the four federal law enforcement agencies, namely: National Accountability Bureau, Anti-Narcotics Force, Directorate General (Investigation and Intelligence) of the Federal Board of Revenue and Federal Investigation Agency,” he maintained.

In June 2015, the spokesperson said, after strenuous efforts, the implementation of this Action Plan was completed and Pakistan was delisted from FATF’s grey list .

“This exit was an acknowledgment of the robustness of Pakistan’s CFT/AML regime and well in line with international standards. Once things get clearer, we will be able to comment on Pak-US relations in this context,” he said.

Faisal said Pakistan and the US were trying to find ‘common ground’ in their bilateral relations, which was happening outside public glare. “So far, we have not failed. We are against any country-specific sanctions,” he added. The spokesperson said Pakistan was against any unilateral sanctions by individual countries on political grounds.

About US intelligence agencies warning that Pakistan will continue to slip out of America’s influence and will become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asian region, the spokesperson said the US Congress had recently been presented an annual threat assessment by its intelligence community in which these remarks were made.

“It is surprising that we are seeing this report in the US when in reality, it is the US that is drifting away from Pakistan, despite our long-time relationship,” he contended.

Several unilateral actions by the US in recent months, he said, had impacted the relationship and it was for the US to rebuild the trust. “We have categorically conveyed to the US that this relationship can move forward only in an environment of mutual trust and respect,” the spokesperson said.

Other officials at the foreign ministry said Pakistan will not give up and fight its way out of the crisis. One official said: “This is not the end of the life. We will make diplomatic efforts to make a comeback. There is still hope.”

Another official said Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and other diplomats will visit the friendly countries in the coming days to seek their support to come out of the trouble.

Meanwhile, Adviser to Prime Minister on finance Miftah Ismail said the FATF decision will make no big difference on Pakistan’s economy. “Nothing is going happen before June. It is not a big issue,” he said.

Ismail said Pakistan was placed on the list between 2012 and 2015 too but the stock market still grew three percent.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan tweeted: “We have officially complained to FATF on Indian media speculations which they claim are on basis of information provided by top Indian government sources.”

He added: “The decision in this regard will be announced in June 2018. We cannot comment on the matter. Pakistan has not been officially informed about any decision by FATF. The proceedings of FATF are confidential and hence it is strictly forbidden by FATF to comment.”