Blame game returns to Senate after FATF bills’ passage

Published August 20, 2020
The upper house of parliament witnessed rumpus on a couple of occasions. — APP/File
The upper house of parliament witnessed rumpus on a couple of occasions. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Treasury and opposition members on Wednesday resumed their political bickering soon after the smooth passage of the remaining two FATF-related bills in the Senate as both sides hurled allegations of corruption, money-laundering and promoting extremism at each other.

The upper house of parliament witnessed rumpus on a couple of occasions when opposition members belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) protested over remarks of Leader of House Shahzad Waseem against their leadership and later when the treasury members raised objections over the use of certain “inappropriate remarks” made by PPP’s Quratulain Marri while responding to Mr Waseem’s speech.

Outspoken PML-N senator Mushahidullah Khan blasted the government over its two-year performance and warned it against the people’s wrath, stating that those ministers holding press conferences over the last two days would soon not be able to go among the masses.

Earlier, the Senate passed the Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, after the government accepted the amendments proposed by the PPP’s Farooq Naek and Imamuddin Shouqeen. The passage of the bills with amendments means that these two legislations will go back to the National Assembly for the final approval.

Both the bills were passed with a majority vote as the members of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) had opposed them during a voice vote. Later, in their speeches, besides taking the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to task for “doing hasty legislations under the international pressure”, the JUI-F and the JI members again criticised the country’s two major opposition parties for cooperating with the government in the passage of the crucial laws.

The Senate had already passed the Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill, 2020, the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which were required to be passed as per 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.

All these five bills had already been passed by the National Assembly after the government incorporated a number of amendments suggested by the opposition parties.

JUI-F’s Maulana Ataur Rehman began his speech by felicitating the PPP and the PML-N for supporting the government in the passage of the legislations which, according to him, had put the country’s future at stake. He ridiculed the explanation being given by the government that the legislations were being done to steer Pakistan out of the grey list and to foil India’s attempt to isolate Pakistan and said that everyone knew the position both India and Pakistan had in the region in terms of economy and politics.

In his hard-hitting speech, JI’s Mushtaq Ahmed said that by approving these “imposed and imported legislations”, the parliament had “handcuffed Pakistan and put chains on its feet.” He said the Statements of the Objects and Reasons attached to the bills clearly showed that these were “imposed” legislations and being done on the pressure of FATF, International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Taking the floor, Leader of the House Shahzad Waseem not only targeted the religious parties, but also attacked the PPP and the PML-N despite the fact that the two parties had supported the government in the parliament on the FATF legislations.

Mr Waseem said Pakistan was already in the FATF grey list when the PTI came into power due to the bad policies of the previous governments.

Amid noisy protest by opposition members, the leader of the house said everyone knew that who were those people facing money-laundering charges and appearing in the courts. He said everyone knew as to who were known for promoting terrorism in the country.

Angered over the opposition’s reaction, Mr Waseem threatened that if he was not allowed to speak then they would also not let the opposition members make speeches in the house, prompting a strong warning by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, who directed the opposition members to take their seats and only speak when given the floor.

Mr Waseem said the country was known for terrorism during the previous regimes whereas the PTI government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan was now taking Pakistan “from terrorism to tourism”. He said the PTI government enjoyed the mandate of the people who had ended the musical chair contest between the two parties. He said the PTI would not only complete its remaining three years, it would also play a “second innings” with a two-thirds majority. He said Imran Khan was not busy in building Surrey Palace or Jati Umra Palace and had brought Pakistan out of international isolation.

Responding to Mr Waseem’s allegations, PPP’s Quratulain Marri said those people were raising fingers on the opposition whose leader called Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden a martyr. She was referring to a speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly in June in which he had called the top Al Qaeda leader a martyr.

As far as the money laundering charges were concerned, she said, the nation was still awaiting an outcome of the foreign funding case against the PTI which had been pending before the Election Commission of Pakistan and that had been filed by one of the PTI’s founding members Akbar Babar.

The treasury members protested when Ms Marri termed the speech of Mr Waseem a “comedian act”. The chairman warned the members against using inappropriate language, asking them to show respect for each other.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2020

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