In a bid to avoid the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) forever; Pakistan’s National Assembly has passed a bill titled “National Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Authority Act, 2023”.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar presented the bill in the National Assembly, terming it as important legislation which would bring all institutions related to FATF under one authority.
“The proposed authority would function as a focal institution and help the state give a unified response to curb the menace of money laundering and terror financing,” Khar said.
“This is a good bill and if it is enforced and properly implemented, Pakistan will never see the FATF grey list again. The proposed law will institutionalise different entities and greatly benefit Pakistan,” Khar added.
Khar recalled that Pakistan faced major challenges in tackling three different fields, which resulted in the country being put on the FATF grey list, adding that the newly passed legislation would effectively address them going forward.
“Pakistan faced difficulties in three different arenas… anti-money laundering (AML), countering financing of terrorism (CFT) and targeted financial sanctions (TFL) when it was put on the FATF grey list,” she said.
Formation of a new authority realistically implies that the government is making a centralised authority in capital Islamabad, tasked primarily to curb AML, CFT and TFL.
Currently, money laundering (ML), terror financing (TF) and targeted financial sanctions are being enforced under different laws through the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010, Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 and the United Nations Security Council Act 1948.
However, with the formation of a new authority, operating directly under the sitting Prime Minister; it would be able to ensure implementation of regulations and to coordinate matters pertaining to AML, CFT and TFS.
As per details of the new legislation, the authority would be headed by the chairman, appointed by the Prime Minister along with secretaries of the finance, foreign affairs and interior division of the State Bank of Pakistan governor.
It will also include chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR); DGs of the anti-narcotics force and the financial monitoring unit; chief secretaries and any other member recommended by the Prime Minister.
While the Pakistan government’s newly approved legislation looks a constitution of an efficient and relevant quarters to tackle AML, CFT and TFS; implementation of its regulations, in view of the previous history of the country’s struggle to counter such illegalities, raises some concerns as Islamabad has had a history of having governments, accused by their political rivals of supporting, facilitating and financing extremist elements to operate and carry out various activities in and outside of the country.