ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday could pass only one of the five FATF-related bills amid protest by religious and nationalist parties whose members lashed out not only at the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for “doing legislation in haste under international pressure”, but also bitterly criticised the country’s two major opposition parties for extending cooperation to the government in the passage of the crucial legislations.
It was due to a strong protest by senators belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and following requests of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani deferred the passage of the two other FATF-related bills till Tuesday (tomorrow) after allowing the chairmen of the committees on interior and narcotics control to present reports on the bills through a supplementary agenda on a private member’s day.
The Senate passed the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, amid noisy protest by senators mostly from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and deferred the passage of the Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill and the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill which had already received a ceremonial approval of the committees due to an understanding between the government and the PPP and the PML-N.
Read: Beyond FATF
The two other bills — the Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, — could not be taken up by the upper house of the parliament and the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue did not approve them due to the absence of the finance secretary from the meeting earlier in the day.
Smaller opposition parties assail PPP, PML-N for helping govt
Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue Chairman Farooq Naek regretted that on the one hand the government was in a haste to get these FATF-related laws approved and on the other the finance secretary had no time to attend the committee meetings called to take up the legislations.
Mr Naek, who is also a member of the house committee on interior, told the house that in the committee meeting he had suggested some amendments to improve the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill and Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati had given a written undertaking that the amendments would be made in the laws within 30 days of its passage.
All these five bills, which the government had presented in the House to meet conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to steer the country out of the grey list of the countries in terms of terror financing, had already been passed by the National Assembly after the government incorporated a number of amendments suggested by opposition parties.
Opposing the bills, JI chief Sirajul Haq stated that they could not endorse these laws with closed eyes and regretted that his party was not consulted on these legislations at any stage. He said the PTI was lucky that the PPP and the PML-N were also supporting it in the hasty passage of the legislations.
Another JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed criticised the government for using the parliament as a “rubber stamp” only to obey the commands of the FATF, World Bank and other international institutions.
He termed the FATF-related laws “imposed and imported legislations”. He expressed surprise as to what made the PPP and the PML-N to believe the PTI government on the FATF issue when these two parties criticised the government on all other matters.
Usman Kakar of the PkMAP while requesting the chairman and the government to defer the bills for another day taunted the PPP and the PML-N, saying that why the government was insisting on the bills’ passage today knowing that the PPP and the PML-N would always be there to support it.
Maulana Ataur Rehman and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F also blasted the government over “hasty legislation” and accused it of bulldozing the process in the parliament.
Before taking up the legislations, opposition members staged a token walkout, led by PPP’s parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman, over the alleged manhandling of former president Asif Zardari, his lawyers and party workers by the police at the time of his appearance in an accountability court in Islamabad earlier in the day.
Raising the issue, Ms Rehman questioned the ongoing “one-sided accountability process” in the country and targeted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in her speech.
Leader of the House Shahzad Waseem, however, refuted Ms Rehman’s allegations and vowed that the accountability process would continue, come what may. He, however, said the government was ready to sit with the opposition if it wanted to change the NAB laws.
Later, the members held a debate on the “present political situation and its impacts on the country” on a motion moved by Balochistan senators.
During the debate, opposition members mentioned the recent speech of Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari in which she accused the Foreign Office of damaging the Kashmir cause.
They also criticised Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi over his remarks about Saudi Arabia, saying that due to irresponsible statement by the minister today the army chief and the ISI head were visiting Saudi Arabia to control the damage.
Initiating the debate on the political situation, Usman Kakar alleged that the Pashtoons and the Balochs were not getting their rights and criticised “the parties of Punjab” for not raising their voice for them.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2020