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    London Eye: A little less black in Pakistan’s grey

    London Eye: A little less black in Pakistan’s grey

    London Eye: A little less black in Pakistan’s grey
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    By Sanjay Suri   IST (Published)

    Mini

    Pakistan has an impressive 26-and-a-half out of 27 marks in the tasks given by FATF to check terror financing. Of the 40 points set by the Asia Pacific Group, effectively a part of the FATF in a parallel exam, Pakistan has scored 30 so far. The trouble for Pakistan is that the pass mark is 100 percent in both parallel exams. And that’s still not it.

    As the mark sheet goes, Pakistan is doing better and better in the FATF exam, even if it hasn’t got enough marks to pass its way out of this exam business. It’s not likely to clear the final exam for at least another year.
    So far it has an impressive 26-and-a-half out of 27 marks in the tasks given by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to check terror financing. Of the 40 points set by the Asia Pacific Group, effectively a part of the FATF in a parallel exam, Pakistan has scored 30 so far. This one is a course to check money laundering, which is of course closely and worryingly related to terror financing. But again, fairly impressive on the mark sheet.
    The trouble for Pakistan is that the pass mark is 100 percent in both parallel exams. And that’s still not it. Once it gets there, the FATF and its subsidiary the APG will arrange on-site visits to make final on-the-ground inspections. Pakistan will stop looking grey once it passes that final test as well. More like the interview after clearing an exam.
    Looking at the numbers alone, Pakistan could claim that the glass is considerably more than half full. And consequently Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi cried foul after the FATF decision. The FATF, he said, is being more political than technical; that translates quite simply into an accusation of doing what India wants. Pakistan, Qureshi said, has not just completed the 26 tasks, but is well on its way to delivering on the 27th.
    At some point, this ceases to be a mark sheet where all marks carry equal weight. The 27th elusive task is of taking firm and dissuasive action against the masterminds of terror financing. Without that Pakistan is hardly likely to be considered ‘almost there’ despite what the mark sheet says. India might conceivably argue that this one remaining task matters more than any other. It could be argued fairly effectively that if Pakistan were to have done just this, the other tasks could have just melted away.
    Largely
    A further qualification is creeping into FATF statements of late. Pakistan is said to have “largely” complied on the tasks it has been set and that it accepted. This would suggest a lack of completion on Pakistan’s part and even allow for loopholes that Pakistani agencies may well have set up to slip through.
    That “largely” word sits comfortably as a loophole for the FATF itself. It absolves the FATF of any absolute responsibility over any slippages that may surface. The increasing use of that word does not quite sit with the FATF insistence on 100 percent compliance at some level.
    But short of the ideal and the absolute, both the FATF and the APG reports point to significant improvement on several counts within Pakistan, something that the Indian government has not been in a hurry to accept. The FATF scrutiny is close, and its international clout considerable, but India is clearly not prepared to sign on to a certificate that declares that Pakistan has even largely done the right thing.
    Terror financing enables terrorism, but it is not terrorism itself. It’s not clear what within the FATF remit could cover cross-border infiltration of militants and munitions—presumably the bombs and guns being used in Kashmir every day don’t grow in Dal Lake and haven’t been handed to terrorists by the Indian government.
    Wary
    In the face of daily attacks, after four full-scale military operations since Independence, the Indian government will inevitably be wary of progress claimed by Pakistan and accepted by the FATF. But Indian cannot also support the FATF process and entirely ignore its results. To the extent Pakistan has done something finally under sustained pressure, some partial good at the least is likely to have resulted already.
    The test of that can only be what might have happened but did not as a result of measures taken. That is of course impossible to measure, no marks for figuring that out. But it would be churlish of India to deny also that—again at the very least—some things are headed in the right direction to some extent if the entire FATF exercise is not a charade. And the Indian government has not suggested that it is.
    It could all have been a lot worse without any steps taken at all. An optimist might suggest that these might one day prove to have been among the first steps to eventual peace. Amidst all the hostility and cross-demonisation, an occasional touch of optimism marks if nothing a temporary diversion from the usual discourse.
    — London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
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