ON Wednesday, the National Assembly passed five more FATF-related bills as a result of an understanding between the government and the opposition. There was some acrimony on the floor of the house when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the opposition had wanted to link its support for the bills earlier with NAB law amendments, but Speaker Asad Qaisar managed to deftly control the situation. He had also played a key behind-the-scenes role in bringing the two sides to agree on the bills before they were brought to the floor. This is a good development and it strengthens Pakistan’s position when its case for removal from the grey list comes up at the next meeting of the Financial Action Task Force.
The pressing urgency to get this legislation done is dictated by FATF requirements but it is in the interest of Pakistan to make such laws that curtail terror financing and money laundering. In fact, ideally Pakistan should not have waited for FATF pressure to get such legislation done, and instead, enacted these laws on its own. The country has suffered tremendously due to terrorism and it is in our interest to take all steps necessary to ensure terror outfits do not take root in the country again. It goes to our credit that we have been able to degrade and defeat the scourge of terrorism but we must continue to reform our systems and plug weaknesses wherever identified so that the infrastructure of terrorism is dismantled fully. However, as things stand now, it is hoped that the FATF will appreciate the steps that Pakistan has taken in light of the requirements laid down by it. The passage of bills by consensus at a time of acute polarisation is a good sign. While it may suggest that the government and the opposition may have been nudged and pushed into forging a consensus on these bills, it is heartening that both sides have managed to overcome their mutual distrust and partisanship to push the legislation through. Hopefully, this would help build a better working relationship in parliament. One point of concern is the attempt by the government to add some draconian measures to these bills that were not a requirement of the FATF. The opposition had pointed these out and requisite amendments were made. All concerned should ensure such measures that curtail the rights of citizens should not sneak their way into future legislation.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020