Fireworks in NA likely over more FATF-related bills

Updated 10 Aug 2020

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Opposition vows to resist move, terming bills ‘draconian’, beyond FATF requirements. — INP/File
Opposition vows to resist move, terming bills ‘draconian’, beyond FATF requirements. — INP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to witness fiery proceedings on Monday (today) as the government plans to get five more FATF-related bills passed from the lower house of parliament with opposition flexing its muscles to resist the move, accusing the government of bringing “draconian laws” on the pretext of meeting conditions of the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog.

The 23-point agenda issued by the NA Secretariat for the sitting shows that after laying the committee reports on the bills, the government will move a motion to suspend the assembly rules to enable the passage of the bills the same day.

Also read: Legal jigsaw and FATF

The bills on the agenda are the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Limited Liability Partner­ship (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Com­panies (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amend­ment) Bill 2020.

Besides these bills, the government will move resolutions seeking to extend the Covid-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance 2020 and the Financial Institu­tions (Secured Transactions) (Amend­ment) Ordinance 2020 for another 120 days as the two ordinances are about to complete their 120-day constitutional life on August 20 and August 26, respectively.

Opposition vows to resist move, terming bills ‘draconian’, beyond FATF requirements

The leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said they had opposed those FATF-related bills in the committees and they would do so in the parliament as well.

“We will oppose the bills both for process and lack of scrutiny of the contents,” declared PPP’s vice president Sherry Rehman, who had been a part of the government-opposition negotiations on the previous three FAFT-related laws already passed by the parliament.

“This is not the way to bulldoze the bills at the last minute,” she said, adding that the government knew about the FATF deadlines for a long time. She said her party was aware of the FATF requirements but the government was “going above and beyond FATF requirements”.

Responding to a question, the PPP leader said the government had not made any effort to build a consensus on the bills. In the standing committees also the PPP had opposed specific clauses of the bills, she said.

Ms Rehman, who is also the parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate, said they never blocked bills involving national interest, but some of these were “draconian” in nature and needed amendments. She said until they could make amendments, they would not let these laws pass from the parliament, adding that if the government managed to get them passed in the present form from the assembly, they would block them in the Senate.

Pakistan, she said, needed to get off the grey list, but it needed to get past this requirement while protecting both the state and citizens.

PML-N vice president Khurram Dastagir Khan alleged that through the “draconian laws”, the government was “strangulating businessmen as every transaction would become a minefield” if the bills were passed. “The government is now trying to over-compensate FATF due to its incompetence and delay in the legislative process,” the PML-N leader alleged, adding that they considered these legislations as “unconstitutional”.

He said his party’s members in the NA committee on finance had opposed the anti-money laundering bill, which was expected to be taken up again on Monday.

Talking to Dawn, a senior member of the federal cabinet said that the government had already incorporated many amendments to the bills suggested by the opposition during the committee meetings. He said the government would engage the opposition before start of the NA session and hopefully the opposition would support all the legislations in the larger national interest.

It was after hectic consultations with the PPP and PML-N and after accepting most of their amendments that the coalition government led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had managed to get the Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) Bill — for exchange of information and criminals with countries — passed in the joint sitting of the parliament last week. While the PPP and the PML-N supported the bill, the other smaller opposition parties opposed them in the joint sitting and even lodged a strong protest.

Last month the government successfully managed to get two FATF-related bills — the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) (Amendment) Bill 2020 — passed separately from both the houses of parliament with the support of the two opposition parties.

The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATC) 2020, seeking amendments to the ATC Act 1997, which was passed by the parliament, suggests an increase in the punishment, including the fine amount from existing Rs10 million to Rs25m, besides introduction of a jail sentence for 10 years for those found involved in terror financing through illegal money transfers.

A second bill seeking amendment to the ATC Act 1997 that the government plans to get adopted by the NA on Monday was earlier withdrawn from the agenda after the two opposition parties forcefully opposed it.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2020