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.


Chilgoza prices in Pakistan go nuts as exports soar

Updated 17 November 2019

Chilgoza prices in Pakistan go nuts as exports soar

  • Pine nuts are selling for as high as Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram in the capital, Islamabad
  • Around 20 percent of Pakistan’s forests comprise of pine nut trees, with most of the dry fruit exported to the Middle East, China and US

ISLAMABAD: Every evening, farmer Muhammad Ali climbs up the mountains in Pakistan’s northern Diamer district through a narrow unpaved road to bring down at least two sacks of pine nuts, called chilgozas locally, collected by workers hard at work during the day.
Around 20 percent of Pakistan’s forests comprise of chilgoza trees, with the country producing 15 percent of the world’s total pine nuts at between 3,500 to 4,000 metric tons annually. However, most of these are exported to the Middle East, China, the US, UK and Europe, leaving behind a short supply of exceedingly high priced nuts for local consumption selling in the capital, Islamabad, for approximately Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram this season, according to traders.
In Diamer- one of the country’s main production regions for pine nuts- the price is lower at Rs. 3,200 ($21) per kilogram, but remains prohibitively expensive for most locals.
“The chilgoza has been in high demand since winter began,” Sheraz Khan, a dry fruit trader in one of Islamabad’s most upscale markets, told Arab News.
“We are selling it at Rs. 8,500 ($55) per kilogram, and customers are buying it without even haggling,” he said.
Khan, however, said that the majority of his chilgoza customers were foreigners including Chinese people.
“It is quite a difficult and hectic process to pick chilgozas from pine trees up in the mountains, but it is worth the labor,” farmer Ali told Arab News.
“This year, the yield and rates [of chilgoza] are very good,” he said. “I hope to earn enough to pay the school fees of my three kids and fund other routine expenses during the year.”
Laborers and other people connected to the pine nut industry are also reaping the monetary benefits of the highly priced nuts, he said.
The high demand and price of chilgozas in the market has additionally increased awareness of the nuts’ value, and kickstarted a conversation about the preservation of the trees in order to safeguard their environment for the future. 
“The pine trees are a source of livelihood for the locals,” Ali said. “Therefore they have formed local committees to protect them from illegal loggers and the timber mafia.”
Pine nut trees are found in Pakistan’s north and southwestern provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, including in the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. The tree is hard and tall, and can endure excessive drought, high winds, and severe cold in the winter. 
Pine-nut harvesting begins in September. Locals collect the green cones from trees and spread them under the open sky to let them dry in the sun for more than two weeks. Each cone contains between 15 to 20 pine nuts depending on its size. It is then processed through a machine for quality grading before being sold in the market, with the nuts usually eaten raw or roasted.