Hina Rabbani Khar speaks during an interview with Reuters in the lawns of her residence in Muzaffargarh, Punjab province. Reuters
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar stated that Islamabad is "one step away” from exiting the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as the watchdog will conduct an onsite visit to Pakistan to validate technical commitments.
The minister told a news conference that the FATF visit is a procedural requirement, which will result in the removal of Pakistan from its notorious grey 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 highlighted that Pakistan’s commitment to strengthened financial regulation is a matter of national consensus, with the strategic objective to strengthen the economy and restore confidence.
Khar also acknowledged the "tireless” efforts of the teams who "burnt the midnight oil” to ensure the FATF action plans of 2018 and 2022 were completed. "This has been a cross-government effort,” she stated, adding that the success was an effort of the state of Pakistan and not a singular entity.
She expressed hope that Pakistan would be in a position to sustain its trajectory of reforms and "provide guidance and technical support to other countries in the region as we are ahead of the curve.”
Khar stated that Pakistan would be "fully prepared” for the on-site visit. She urged the media that due to confidentiality requirements of the regulatory body, to not prematurely share the news. "This has harmed our position in the past, we can never prejudge a situation,” she added.
Maintaining the government’s position, Khar stated that while Pakistan was the only country to have two action plans to tackle financial regulation, it was "too early to celebrate.”
To a question regarding FATF’s political bias, the minister stated that Pakistan can be positive about its journey and said "we have been enabled to be and seen as responsible and we have always emphasised that FATF should remain apolitical and technical. We hope that will continue.”
When asked a question regarding international interference in the process, Khar refrained from answering the question stating, "we have emphasized that the body is apolitical but there is a certain country that has made it difficult in the past.”
The minister added that Pakistan’s success was incumbent on its national agenda to tackle terror financing. "Our national and international agenda is aligned, we have learned many lessons and never want to slip,” she said.
When asked how "friendly ties” helped with Pakistan’s FATF position, the minister stated that diplomatic outreach was always a strategy. However, Khar emphasised that Pakistan had "honoured its commitments” and "over-performed” and therefore, deserved assistance from countries.
The minister said that while there was immense political pressure on Pakistan’s performance in the past, diplomacy aimed to neutralise the outlook. She added that India has excessively worked to undermine Pakistan’s position in the FATF body. However, she hinted that India’s performance would not bode well as FATF mutual evaluation reports were due soon.
When asked again who deserves credit for Pakistan’s financial performance, Khar stated that she felt as if the country was more concerned with who deserved credit rather than with the FATF conference.
"We are giving credit to everyone who seeks it, and deservedly so,” she responded, adding that the performance was not a certain political party’s agenda but Pakistan’s agenda.
"We have to remain mature about it, we don’t react to immaturity with immaturity,” said Khar, furthering that the incumbent government would consider it a "win-win if everyone believes they have a stake in this.”
The minister also acknowledged that the previous Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) government deserved credit as they had a stake in the FATF action plans, "we hope that every political party will continue to do so.”
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif telephoned Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday.
During the telephonic conversation, the prime minister congratulated Bilawal on completion of action plans set forth by the FATF to get out of the grey list. Shahbaz said that the entire foreign ministry team deserves appreciation.
Meanwhile, Bilawal said that he would continue to strive for Pakistan to get the country out of every difficulty by using all his efforts.
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