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Dawn Editorial 23 February 2020

FATF grey list

IT seems that, despite the seriousness with which Pakistan had committed itself to complying with FATF standards, the global financial watchdog is still not convinced of its progress and requires more action on some of the targets that it says have not been achieved.
For now, then, Pakistan remains on the grey list.
The taskforce has indicated that Pakistan will have to satisfactorily address all 27 points of the action plan by June, otherwise stricter action could be taken. For a while, there were government officials who were hopeful that Pakistan would be removed from the grey list, although some ministers did strike a cautious note, reminding people that the outcome of the February talks was not a foregone conclusion. It turns out that the optimists did not win the day.
Certainly, the task before Pakistan has been gargantuan, and the fact that it has still met several FATF conditions should be appreciated. But the difficult part is clearly not over; the top tiers of government must now take a hard, honest look at all the hurdles in the way of meeting the global body’s expectations and ensure that these are removed quickly.
A perception had been created that the arrest of UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed, would pave the way for Pakistan to be removed from the list but this has not happened.
Clearly, the gaps in the implementation of the action plan have overshadowed the progress that the government wished to project. Now the country needs, and deserves, clarity on exactly what is happening on the FATF front.
The FATF statement released after the deliberations in Paris contains language more specific than did previous statements.
It says Pakistan needs to make “significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalising” terror financing, and should such progress not be made, the watchdog would take action “which could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdiction to advise their [financial institutions] to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan.”
The question for the country’s economy in the next four months is: what does “special attention” mean here? What are its ramifications?
Despite having touted all the progress that has been made thus far, including a high-profile arrest on terror-financing grounds, and despite that fact that Pakistan enjoys the confidence of the US in delivering a peace plan for Afghanistan and has an ally in China that is the president of the watchdog body, it is obvious the danger of blacklisting has not gone away, and the authorities are still struggling to implement the entire action plan.
The stakes are higher, as are the challenges confronting the government. It is time to for the government to make clear where the operational difficulties lie and expedite its efforts to satisfy FATF demands. Without this, Pakistan’s progress will never be viewed as enough.


Zainab Alert Bill

REALISING the extent of child abuse in the country, the Senate has done well to review and attempt to improve the Zainab Alert Bill that was passed last month by the National Assembly. During its deliberations, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights decided to incorporate the jurisdiction of anti-terrorism courts in the bill in an attempt to make its provisions applicable across the country. Earlier, the bill could only be implemented in the federal capital. Meanwhile, in its last meeting, the Senate Special Committee on Child Protection asked for details of child abuse cases from all over Pakistan, while also calling for an analysis of child protection laws in other Saarc countries in an effort to improve the bill. The committee also called for consistent coverage of the issue of child abuse by the media in order to expedite the policymaking process.
That the senators understand the criticality of the issue is a good sign. However, Pakistani legislators must admit that a number of months elapsed between the introduction of the bill and its passage by the National Assembly. The bill was passed in January this year, two years after the gruesome rape and murder of young Zainab Ansari and eight long months after its introduction in the lower house by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari. The delay, apparently, was caused when a parliamentary committee deferred the bill’s passage in August 2019 due to a controversy over the originally proposed maximum punishment of rigorous imprisonment. Though the issue now stands resolved with the revision of the punishment clause in the bill passed by the lower house last month — life imprisonment with a fine of Rs1m and a minimum sentence of 10 years — one wonders how many other innocent children might have faced abuse at the hands of predators during this time. The senators, with all their good intentions, also need to acknowledge the urgency of the matter. The little boy who was raped more than 100 times by his madressah teacher in Mansehra (December 2019), the second-grade student violated by the school watchman in Charsadda (October 2019) and another girl who was raped and killed by two men in Nowshera (January 2020) might have been spared their ordeal had there been a strict law in place. It is now time to finalise the bill so that it can be passed and enforced as the law. The children of the country depend upon it.


Sanitation talk

AT a recent gathering at Parliament House, speakers highlighted Pakistan’s challenges with regard to sanitation — particularly the lack of toilets, clean hygiene practices and waste management which gives rise to a host of illnesses and infections in the population. Due to the absence of even basic infrastructure, open defecation is not an uncommon sight in cities, towns and villages across Pakistan, often close to waterways; this poses a risk not only to public health, but also to the environment. Additionally, poorly constructed sewerage lines can lead to human waste seeping into irrigation channels, which contaminates the water used for drinking and growing crops. Water-borne ailments such as diarrhoea threaten the lives of mainly young children. According to Unicef, over 22,000 children around the world die each year from diarrhoea, and it remains one of the leading causes of death among infants and children in Pakistan. This country also has one of the highest rates of stunting in the world, which is partly attributed to the mismanagement of waste disposal and the lack of awareness of safe hygiene practices within households. Then there is the widespread issue of flies that collect over open sources of waste and transmit the filth to food items, leading to cases of cholera in the population.
According to data shared by the Salman Sufi Foundation — which plans to launch Saaf Bath, a much-needed initiative to provide clean public toilet facilities to the people — approximately 79pc Pakistanis lack proper toilet facilities. The situation is worse for women, with over half of them not having access to proper sanitation in male-dominated societies that so easily overlook, ignore or are openly hostile to their right to exist and move about freely in public spaces. Unfortunately, the lack of toilets is a major governance oversight which has direct implications for the country’s economy. According to the SSF, nearly $2bn are flushed down the toilet each year due to this rarely talked about issue. What a waste, indeed.


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