Pakistan assures to fully implement FATF action plan by February

Islamabad has until February 2020 to fully implement the given action plan.. (Photo courtesy: FATFNews/Twitter)
Updated 22 October 2019

Pakistan assures to fully implement FATF action plan by February

  • Global watchdog warned Pakistan would be placed in blacklist if swift actions were not taken
  • Experts doubt the capacity of Pakistan's implementation institutions to overcome deficiencies in such a short time

KARACHI: Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to fully comply with the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) by February 2020 to avoid the country’s blacklisting. However, experts doubt the capacity of relevant institutions to overcome the deficiencies needed to improve implementation in such a short time.
Pakistan managed to retain its place in FATF's grey list after the review in Paris last week, but the global watchdog explicitly warned Islamabad to curb terrorist financing or face blacklisting.
Islamabad has until February 2020 to fully implement the given action plan.
“Pakistan agreed to national action plan to fix serious weakness in anti-monetary laundering and terrorist financing framework. Despite high level commitment to fix these weaknesses Pakistan has not made enough progress. Pakistan needs to do more and it needs to do it faster,” Xiangmin Liu, president of the FATF, said at a press conference in Paris on Friday.
Liu warned that Pakistan would be placed in blacklist if swift actions are not taken. “FATF is giving this very clear warning…. if by February 2020 the country has not made significant progress we would consider further actions.”
Pakistan has reiterated its commitment to fully implement action plan to counter money laundering and terror financing within the given timeframe.
“On this issue government’s all institutions are on the same page. All institutions are committed to fight money laundering and terrorist financing,” Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue, who is currently visiting the United States told journalists in Washington on Sunday.
According to the FATF Technical Compliance Index, out of a total of 40 recommendations, Pakistan was fully compliant with only one, largely compliant with nine, partially compliant with 26 and non-compliant with four recommendations.
“I think Pakistan will be able to meet its target if proper efforts are made because it is largely compliant in most categories and non-compliant in only four,” Dr Salman Shah, former finance minister, told Arab News.
However, experts believe the targets were hard to meet within a span of four months as the implementing institutions lacked capacity.
“In my personal view, this work cannot be done in four months. Technical institutions involved here need capacity building with requisite technical advice. The banking and surveillance institutions involved lack capacity. Efforts are needed to improve their capacity,” said Dr Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director of Islamabad based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
He suggested that FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) should first provide the technical training and know-how to Pakistani institutions and then demand implementation inline with the training provided.
Many Pakistani experts also believe that the country is on the right track and maltransactions have reduced significantly. “It's hard to say if Pakistan can achieve targets for sure. But we are on the right track. The reported maltransactions have reduced significantly since the past year. But we have to be very vigilant to meet the February deadline because the repercussions are enormous”, said Komal Shakeel, Economic Policy Consultant at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Shakeek said that “in the context of slowed growth predicted by major international agencies and the dire need for Pakistan to expand export led growth, this [blacklisting] will be a huge blow to Pakistan's trade. Foreign exchange reserves may suffer greatly, and a blow to GDP growth may eventually lead to stagflation.”
To avoid further downgradation in February next year, Dr Ahmed suggests expedited diplomatic efforts to complement the implementation of the action plan. “Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China can play a big role in further relaxation in February 2020. We need to actively engage ourselves diplomatically with these four countries,” he said.


Pakistan accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

Updated 16 November 2019

Pakistan accuses India of using cyberspace as weapon, says cyber policy coming soon 

  • European disinformation watchdog uncovered 265 Indian websites spreading anti-Pakistan content
  • Pakistan is one of the world’s least cyber-safe countries

ISLAMABAD: Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, said on Saturday that India has launched a cyber war against Pakistan, days after a Europe-based watchdog cracked open a nexus of hundreds of dormant companies and 'fake media outlets' saying that it is promoting India’s diplomatic interests around the world, and kickstarting a conversation about cyber security in Pakistan.
EU DisinfoLab, a nonprofit organization that researches and tackles disinformation campaigns, said on Wednesday that it has uncovered 265 fake media outlets spread across 65 countries managed by an Indian network, with content “designed to influence the European Union and the United Nations by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan,” the organization said in a report.
“It’s a cyber war and they [Indians] are using cyberspace as a weapon,” Chaudhry told Arab News.
“Cyber security has become a major global issue,” he continued, and added Pakistan’s cyber security policy would be announced soon.
Investigating the network, the Lab traced digital prints linked to a group of Indian companies, NGOs, and think tanks, from a little-known company called the Srivastava Group.
Dubious news portals all based at the same New Delhi address and mentioned in the watchdog’s investigation included Times of Los Angeles, Times of Portugal, New Delhi Times, New York Journal American, Times of North Korea and The International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which is the same organization that reportedly invited 27 members of the European Parliament to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visit Kashmir, amid international attention on curbs on free speech and allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.
On Aug. 5, New Delhi flooded Kashmir valley with troops, enforced a curfew and communications blackout, and scrapped the special legal status of the disputed region which both India and Pakistan own in part but claim in full. Since then, New Delhi has denied its part in any human rights abuses on different media outlets- many of which have turned out to be zombie websites.
Foreign Affairs expert Qamar Cheema said India wanted Pakistan to become globally isolated.
“It is India’s declared position to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and economically,” Cheema told Arab News.
“Both countries are vying to influence the domestic and international audience about their strategic and tactical narratives, but India has developed cobwebs in the virtual world. This is because of India’s IT achievements and expanding global reach,” he said.
“Pakistan is using traditional tools of diplomacy. India is using traditional tools, its web armies and data mining techniques to influence public opinions to which Pakistan may not be able to respond, lacking resources and state of the art IT infrastructure,” he continued.
The fake news websites republished contents from Russia Today and Voice of America, but the report said they also found a large number of articles related to minorities in Pakistan.
In Geneva, the investigating group found that timesofgeneva.com – an online ‘newspaper’ self-professed to be ‘approaching 35 years in business’ – published and produced videos covering events and demonstrations that criticized Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict.
“Media and cyber space are increasingly being used as weapons to influence events and to project national interests. India has been doing it for many years, whether it is hacking our command and control centers... or planting stories about Pakistan,” Ambassador Vice Admiral (R) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique, President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, told Arab News.
“India’s prowess in the IT field has undermined our national security interests,” he said. “It is time that Pakistan invests in human resource and technological competence because media and cyberspace are the components of 21st century warfare.”
In April, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications, had announced that a comprehensive cyber security policy would be introduced soon.
Domestically however, the country has placed great importance on countering and policing the spread of content and information through special cyber laws-- but these were specific to cyber-crime not cyber-security, experts say.
“We have been creating cyber crime laws but not a cyber security policy,” Ammar Jafri, former head of the Federal Investigation Agency’s National Response Center for Cyber Crime wing, told Arab News.
Jafri was instrumental in drafting Pakistan’s first cyber security policy in 2012 which is still pending approval.
“We are one of the few countries in the world without a national computer emergency response team, cyber security policy and cyber security strategy,” he said.
“There are plenty of challenges that Pakistan faces in cyberspace that need government initiatives to confront. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. The cyber security bill can be reactivated with certain amendments.”
“This is the cyber era and we need to spend on cyber weapons to counter enemies of the state on the internet,” he continued.
Pakistan is one of the least cyber-safe countries in the world according to a 2019 Comparitech study sourced from Kaspersky Lab, International Telecommunication Union, and Center for Strategic and International Studies.