Turkey, after China, emerged as Pakistan’s ‘friend’ on several international fora

Pakistan has been on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2018. It has now got its new friend Turkey for company along with 22 others. The FATF found Turkey involved in supporting terror groups financially by not acting against money laundering.

Money laundering is considered the principal mode of terror financing. Pakistan has found it difficult to move out of the grey list since June 2018. The FATF has found it floundering on containing money laundering that streams funds to terror outfits in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan needs to fulfil commitments it made at the FATF to tackle money laundering. Announcing the decision of Pakistan remaining on the grey list, FATF chief Marcus Pleyer said, “Pakistan has already completed 30 out of 34 action points. So, this shows the clear commitment of the Pakistan government. So, there was no discussion on blacklisting.”

Staying on the grey list costs Pakistan an estimated $30 million a year. It finds it difficult to get financial aid from other countries and international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For a country so dependent on external aid such as Pakistan, drying up of foreign money puts it at serious risk of economic collapse.

Though discussion on putting Pakistan on the FATF blacklist did not take place in the latest session of the global terror financing watchdog, the gaze is still sharp on the country. Pakistan has escaped being blacklisted due to the support from China, Mongolia and Turkey.

In the 39-member FATF, it requires the support of at least three countries to avoid being blacklisted for terror financing and money laundering. Now, Turkey itself is on the grey list bringing Pakistan in the direct line of fire if its state policy on sponsoring terrorism does not change in the coming months.

FATF chief Pleyer was categorical in saying that Pakistan “needs to demonstrate further that investigation and prosecution of proscribed terrorists and terror groups are being seriously pursued”.

Interestingly, Pleyer also shot down the charge that India was bullying the Paris-based body to keep Pakistan on the grey list. Pleyer said, “FATF is a technical body and we take our decisions by consensus. It is not one country but 39 jurisdictions and the decision is taken by consensus on a jurisdiction to be put under increased monitoring.”

The FATF was founded in 1989 on the suggestion of G-7 (the group of the seven most industrialised nations) to keep a tab on money laundering and take measures to contain the practice that often ends up fomenting trouble in one part or the other in the world. Turkey became a member of the FATF in 1991.

For long, Turkey took a firm stand against the money laundering route of terror financing — which had seen Pakistan put on the grey in 2015 as well. However, in recent times, Turkey has seen a serious turn in its domestic politics and under Recep Tayyip Erdogan — first as the prime minister and then as the president — it moved closer to Pakistan and is often seen speaking the same language on jihadi terrorism.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Erdogan have been found on the same page in taking on France over its secularism and cooperating on the progress of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Turkey, after China, emerged as Pakistan’s ‘friend’ on several international fora.

With Turkey now facing the heat for its recent track record on money laundering and terror financing, Pakistan may be forced to find a new saviour at the next FATF session, likely in March-April 2022.