ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Interior on Thursday thwarted a government move to include financial crime and illegal money transfers in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) as the lawmakers maintained that the new law could be used for political victimisation.
The amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 has been made to facilitate certain requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) so that terror funding suspects could be tried in the anti-terrorism court.
Making a presentation before the NA committee, an official of the interior ministry highlighted that certain amendments were essential in the wake of FATF requirements, which were earlier included in anti-money laundering laws.
According to the amendments, the ATA lacks the definition of “agent, economic terrorism” and provision regarding detention of those involved in financial crime for inquiry.
The committee was informed that the proposed amendments will further enhance the applicability of the ATA 1997 in the cases of transfer of money or funds through informal channels, including hawala and hundi.
Besides, new Section 9 (A) has been inserted that relates to preventive detention by federal and provincial authorities to detain any suspect for inquiry as well as to review the applications of aggrieved persons against the detention orders.
The amendments were explained by the officials of the FATF cell in the law ministry and they told the committee that the definition of “economic terrorism” means transfer of money or funds from Pakistan to destinations abroad through any informal channel, including hundi or hawala, where the total amount transferred by any one agent, through a single or multiple transactions within one month, is equal to or exceeds Rs50 million.
The amendments include insertion of Section 9A, in the ATA 1997 is “Any person against whom there are reasonable grounds of believing that he is connected with an offence under this Act may be detained for inquiry for a period not exceeding three months”.
The amendments highlight that detention of economic crime accused will be authorised through a specific or general order passed by the interior secretary or the home secretary of the province, or the relevant officer of armed forces or civil armed forces as the case may be where the provisions of Section 4 of ATA has been invoked.
The amendments allow detention up to three months, and it was stated that police officer of the rank of SP and senior or JIT can conduct the inquiry.
However, the first objection to the amendment was raised by Abdul Qadir Patel, PPP’s MNA, followed by Mohammad Perviaz Malik of the PML-N who said that the amendments could be used for political victimisation.
While the officials requested that the amendments might be approved as they were the requirements of the FATF, chairman of the committee Raja Khurram Shahzad of the PTI deferred the bill and directed the interior ministry to club all the ATA-related amendments.
The committee approved a private member bill by Sanaullah Khan Mastikhel to abolish interest-based lending by non-registered persons; the jurisdiction of the bill was within only the limits of Islamabad district.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2019