‘Staying on FATF Grey List is hardly cause for celebration.’

Instead of seeking to get off terror watch lists, Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is celebrating that Pakistan has remained on the FATF Grey list. Till some years back, the government’s efforts were aimed at getting Pakistan off the FATF, not celebrating staying on the list!

At the latest meeting of the UN mandated Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held on Friday October 18, it was announced that Pakistan would remain on the grey list till February 2020.

“The task force 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 FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020,” it said in its statement. “Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress not be made across the full range of its action plan by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action.”

Further, FATF expressed “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its TF risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risks, and more broadly, Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction,” the statement read. “To date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan. “The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020.”

Instead of being concerned about remaining on the grey list and the fear of being added to the blacklist, Pakistan’s leaders and business elite appear to believe in the Pakistan army’s ability to resolve their problems. On October 2nd, General Bajwa informed the group of business leaders who met him that “he was confident that Pakistan would stave off the blacklist and be shifted from the current ‘grey’ to the normal category in the next review.”

Naya Pakistan slips on Global Competitiveness Rankings!

According to the latest Global Competitiveness Index released on October 9, Pakistan has slipped from 107 to 110 rank out of 141 countries. This is the second consecutive year that Pakistan has continued to slide” in 2017, Pakistan stood at 106, it fell to 107 in 2018 and in 2019 it stands at 110.

This index “provides a detailed map of the factors and attributes that drive productivity, growth and human development in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With an overall ranking of 110, Pakistan was at 107 for institutions; 105 for infrastructure; 131 for ICT adoption; 116 for macroeconomic stability; 115 for health; 125 for skills; 126 for product market; 120 for labour market; 99 for financial system; 29 for market size; 52 for business dynamism; and 79 for innovation capacity.”

Even in South Asia, Pakistan’s rank is the lowest with India at 68, Sri Lanka at 84, Bangladesh at 105, and Nepal at 108.

If Imran Khan Conquered the UN, as his fans say, why is Pakistan changing its UN ambassador?

If one is to believe the Pakistani mainstream media, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party the PTI and its social media machinery, then Mr Khan’s recent UNGA trip was a huge success. If that were so then why is it that within 72 hours of Khan’s UNGA speech, his government has changed Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi. On Friday soon after Khan’s UNGA speech two of his cabinet members – Fawad Chaudhry and Naeem ul Haque – tweeted praises of Amb Lodhi.

Establishment Hawk

Yet on Monday September 30, Lodhi was replaced by a former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, Munir Akram. A career foreign service officer, Akram is considered a hawk and a strong supporter of Pakistan’s military -intelligence establishment.

Akram is a prolific OpEd writer and if one glances through his Opeds in Dawn the image appears of someone who is hawkish on India, anti-US, pro-China and believes Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are its only savior.

Girlfriend Beater as ambassador hardly advances Pakistan’s case

However, for the global and American audience, Akram is better known as the “girlfriend beater” Ambassador of Pakistan to the UN who  

According to a New York Times report from 2003 titled ‘U.S. Asks Pakistan to Lift U.N. Envoy’s Immunity After a Violent Quarrel,’ “The State Department has asked Pakistan to withdraw the diplomatic immunity of its envoy here, Munir Akram, after New York City prosecutors sought to bring misdemeanor assault charges against him as a result of a quarrel with a woman, United States and New York City officials said today. Marjorie Tiven, the city commissioner in charge of United Nations issues, wrote to the United States Mission here on Dec. 26 requesting that the envoy’s immunity be removed, according to Edward Skyler, the mayor’s spokesman. Mr. Skyler said the Manhattan district attorney’s office had advised city officials that it was prepared to prosecute if Mr. Akram’s immunity was lifted. Pakistan has not yet informed the United States of any decision.”

The incident dates to “On Dec. 10 at 1:36 a.m., the New York City police were summoned by an emergency 911 call to a residence at 47 East 92nd Street in Manhattan, police officials said. Marijana Mihic, 35, told the 911 operator that a man whom she identified as her husband had smashed her head into a wall and that her arm hurt, according to the police dispatcher’s notes of the conversation. She said the man had hit her before. ”Female caller states husband has diplomatic immunity,” the dispatcher noted. When police officers arrived, Ms. Mihic said that Mr. Akram was her ”boyfriend” and that after an argument with him she had tried to leave. ”He prevented her from leaving, he grabbed her and she fell,” said Lt. Brian Burke, a police spokesman. The police officers at the scene reported that Ms. Mihic had a bruise on her head, he said. Mr. Akram, who is 57, was at the residence when the police arrived and identified himself as an ambassador.”

In the end “A spokesman for the Pakistani Mission said today that Mr. Akram and his friend had reconciled. ”The ambassador and his friend both strongly believe that there is no basis for any legal action in this matter,” said Mansoor Suhail, the spokesman. ”And they have both communicated that belief to the concerned authorities.”

As a Pakistani columnist and analyst Khurram Hussain tweeted, all did not go well during Khan’s US trip for the Ambassador to be removed with such haste!

Economic crises continue in Naya Pakistan!

Contrary to all the rhetoric generated by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his advisers, the latest outlook issued by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) notes that Pakistan will witness the slowest growth rate in South Asia of 2.8 percent for 2019/20. This will be slower than 3.4 percent for Afghanistan and 8 percent for Bangladesh.

“Given the need for the authorities to address sizable fiscal and external imbalances, the economy is expected to slow further, with GDP growth projected at 2.8 percent in FY2020. Fiscal adjustments are expected to suppress domestic demand, and demand contraction will keep growth in manufacturing subdued. However, agriculture is expected to recover from weather-induced contraction this year, with major incentives in the government’s agriculture support package included in the budget for FY2020.”

The ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang noted that “the country needs to continue efforts to stabilise and protect the economy against external risks, rising global prices, current account deficit, rising debt servicing, and continued losses of public sector enterprise.”

Further, ADB noted, “Pakistan needs to press ahead with macroeconomic and structural reforms, revitalising public sector enterprises, improving revenue collection, energy and water security, and leveraging improved security and regional cooperation opportunities to secure the hard won gains and promote growth.”

Finally, “ADB projected the inflation to be markedly higher at 12 percent this fiscal year in anticipation of planned tariff hikes for domestic utilities, higher taxes, and especially the lagged impact of currency depreciation.”

Maybe it is time Pakistan’s leaders understood that Pakistan’s structural economic problems cannot be wished away and the economy will not turn around simply because the army is now part of the planning establishment.

Pakistan’s Decline Continues as Naya Pakistan falls on Global Peace Index

On September 21, the world marks International Peace Day and as per the Global Peace Index of the Sydney-based international think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, Pakistan stands at 153 out of 163 countries, slipping two points from last year.

This annual index is based on an analysis of “peace, its economic value, trends, and how to develop peaceful societies.” As per the 2019 index, “the average South Asian scores were upgraded due to improvements in Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, and a slight gain in Afghanistan.

However, the region still has the second-lowest rank, just ahead of the Middle East and North Africa. According to the report, South Asia’s regional scores were bolstered by Bhutan, which is now the 15th most peaceful country in the world, after rising two places in 2019.

In 2018 the Index had reported that while Pakistan had moved up one point overall there had been little improvement in the country. “Pakistan’s violent crime and terrorism impact scores improved – the latter for the fifth year running – reflecting the government’s success in curbing the violent activities of both criminals and militant groups, gains that also flowed through into an improvement on refugees and IDPs. These gains were offset by rises in military expenditure, the incarceration rate and violent demonstrations. Mass demonstrations, many of which turned violent, are becoming the default mechanism for political and pressure groups to attempt to effect political change.” And both in 2018 and 2019, Pakistan is second to Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the region.