Pakistan remains daubed in shades of grey; a lily-white certificate must still be a long way away. The signal from the Paris conference of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is a fairly robust indictment of Islamabad’s game of playing footsie with terrorists. In the immediate perspective, the country has been afforded a breather by the FATF but there is nothing, just nothing, for the likes of Imran Khan to preen their feathers.

It has been given time till this June to set its house in order, and there is little that is positive on the ground. Hence the FATF decision to maintain Pakistan’s status on its ‘grey list’ of countries with inadequate control over curbing money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The chief cause for surprise must be that Islamabad soldiers on despite such flagrant violations of the certitudes of international law. Overall, Pakistan’s withers remain unwrung. The FATF has conceded that the country has made “significant progress” in the implementation of the 27-point Action Plan, which was demonstrated by the completion of nine additional action items.

The FATF has underlined the need for “further action” for completing the Action Plan by June 2020. The watchdog did take into account recent “notable improvements” made by Pakistan, saying the country has, to date, “largely addressed” 14 out of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan. The country’s response has been far from endorsed; on the contrary, FATF “strongly urges” Pakistan to “swiftly complete” its full action plan by June 2020.

That appeal has been clothed with the warning that “otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalising TF (terror financing) not be made by the next plenary, the FATF will take action.” It is a resounding message in the echo chambers of the government in Islamabad and the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Pakistan was placed on the FATF grey list in June 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the blacklist along with Iran and North Korea.

In October 2019, the FATF decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list till February, giving it time to implement the 27-point action plan. The task force has directed Islamabad to take more measures for complete elimination of terror financing and money laundering while expressing serious concerns over the lack of progress in addressing terror financing risks.

The singular gain for Pakistan at this juncture must be that it has been spared the international indignity of being put in the blacklist. The Grey List, therefore, is at best a halfway house. The fundamental question survives ~ Will Pakistan be able to keep itself in the clear so far as containing terrorism is concerned? Unlikely. This is the terribly important signal emitted from Paris to Pakistan.