ISLAMABAD: In a significant development towards meeting requirements of the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog, both houses of parliament on Thursday passed with some amendments two time-bound bills meant to pull Pakistan out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the United Nations (Security Council) Amendment Bill, 2020, had been passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday, but the government’s bid to get the two bills passed by the Senate the same day had failed. Both the bills had been referred to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice headed by Senator Javed Abbasi.
The Senate panel met here prior to a Senate session and cleared the bills with amendments. Later, the upper house of the parliament passed the two bills. Hours after, the National Assembly also passed the bills.
The developments were the result of behind-the-scenes talks between the government and two mainstream opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The PML-N and PPP on Wednesday held talks which led to an agreement on the opposition’s amendments following which a notification for summoning a National Assembly session on July 30 was issued late in the night.
Explaining the amendments, a lawmaker said the amendment in UNSC bill was about disallowing international entities to intervene directly in Pakistan.
He said Section 5 of the Act in its original form was, “The Federal Govemment may by order, delegate, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, all or any of the powers exercisable by it under this Act.”
He said after the amendment, the powers could be delegated only to a Pakistani person, entity or authority. The definition of “person” in the related ATA bill had been changed to remove many entities of Pakistan, he added.
The bill should cover only activities of terrorist groups, he said, adding: “The way it was defined allowed International actions on institutions including regulatory bodies etc.”
The opposition dominated the house in passing of the bills with majority of votes while the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) was the only opposition party that opposed the proposed laws.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan moved both the bills in Senate.
Chairman of the Senate Law Committee Senator Javed Abbasi said on the floor of the house that the committee through amendments had removed some lacunae in the proposed laws to ensure that these were not misused against citizens of Pakistan. The committee believed that the laws should be passed as these were requirement of the FATF, he added.
Soon after the passage of the bills, JUI-F Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman criticised the PML-N and PPP for supporting the government on the bills. “They have never sided with the opposition and gave way to the government to get the bills passed.”
He said his party had a stance that the resolutions of the UNSC could not be used as a witness against any offence, but the JUI-F’s point of view was neither heard in the house, nor in the committee. “Are we enemies of this country,” he asked.
He said the PML-N and PPP had never tried to unite the opposition, adding that the JUI-F was not ready to move ahead along with these two parties in the future.
Speaking on the floor of the house after the passage of the bills, Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the Senate had proved that it was a “mature house and has wisdom and ability” to work for national interest by keeping aside political differences.
“Today the political parties of Pakistan have demonstrated maturity,” he said while appreciating the role of all political parties.
He said that the opposition parties, including PML-N, PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), and members on treasury benches had “defeated India’s designs” of having Pakistan blacklisted by the FATF. He explained that India for a long time was trying to “push Pakistan to the blacklist” of the global watchdog to face economic sanctions.
“We are trying to remove Pakistan’s name from the grey list and today you have played a part in these efforts,” said the foreign minister. He added that they might have had many differences, but they were united when it came to national issues.
He said the JUI-F should have reviewed its position as by opposing the bills they had given a wrong impression of disunity.
He said that the government with the passage of the two bills had fulfilled all the requirements of FATF and now there was no reason that its name would remain on the grey list.
On the issue of the government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance that seeks to give right to appeal to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav against his death sentence by a military court, Mr Qureshi said that the government had taken all steps as a responsible state and the spy was not being facilitated any way.
“We through our steps are trying to comply with the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by giving the spy consular access and the right of review appeal,” he said. Pakistan did not want India to use any occasion against it and it had given consular access to Jadhav three times to satisfy Indian authorities.
“Nothing has been concealed in the matter,” he said while responding to the opposition’s earlier criticism. He said a summary had been moved to the cabinet followed by an open discussion to promulgate the ordinance.
The foreign minister surprised many by disclosing that he came to know about India’s objection over presence of security guards when consular access was given to Jadhav through TV.
He also rejected PML-N parliamentary leader in the house Mushahidullah Khan’s claim that Jadhav was not in Pakistan.
Talking to reporters in the parliament lodges later, PPP Parliamentary Leader Senator Sherry Rehman cleared the air over what she called the government’s false claims and said: “The bone of contention was not NAB but FATF. We made sure that our proposed amendments in the FATF legislation by 24 members of the notified committee were included. We did not let them bulldoze it without amendments”.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020