Opposition blocks another FATF-related bill in Senate

Published September 16, 2020
During today's Senate session, 31 members voted in favour of passing the bill on terror financing while 34 voted against it. — APP/File
During today's Senate session, 31 members voted in favour of passing the bill on terror financing while 34 voted against it. — APP/File

The Senate on Wednesday rejected the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, a day after it was passed by the National Assembly, making it the third Financial Action Task Force-related legislation to have been blocked by the opposition-dominated upper house.

Last month, the 104-member Senate had rejected the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, both of which are also FATF-related, objecting to some of the provisions and linking its cooperation to retraction of remarks made by Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem about certain leaders.

During today's Senate session, 31 members voted in favour of passing the bill on terror financing while 34 voted against it.

According to the ATA (amendment) Bill, 2020, the investigating officer, with the permission of the court, can conduct covert operations to detect terrorism funding, track communications and computer system by applying latest technologies in 60 days.

Written requests would be made to the court for extension in investigation and the court may extend the period for another 60 days.

The current law will not contradict any other law and the federal government will strengthen the procedure and formulate rules for the implementation of orders.

The bill said funding for terrorism was a major obstacle in the country’s development and a source of disgrace to it. Terrorism funding was benefiting those elements which were not only a threat to internal and external peace of the country but also its allies, it said.

“The main purpose of introducing this bill is to enable law enforcement agencies to eradicate these curses by adopting certain preventive techniques with the empowered assistance of the courts of law.”

Meanwhile, the Senate passed the Cooperative Societies (amendment) Bill, 2020. It was introduced by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, according to which the registrar will provide details of the society's owners, officers and members when requested by relevant authorities.

If the society registrar does not provide the information, its registration will be suspended, the bill read. A registrar will keep a five-year record of the societies that have had their registrations suspended.

The relevant society officer will have to pay Rs1 million in case of violation of the law, according to the bill. If a member, employee, officer or secretary of a cooperative society is found to have committed fraud or corruption, he will face a punishment of five years along with a fine of Rs2 million.

If corruption is found to have been done in the cooperative society, then a fine of one-fourth the investment or Rs10m will have to be paid, the bill said.

Joint sitting of Parliament

Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi has called a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament today at 4pm where the government will try to get the three FATF-related bills passed, sources said.

These bills include the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill and the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, all of which were previously rejected by the Senate.

Under the 18th Amendment, if a bill passed by one house of Parliament is rejected by the other, it can become a law only if it is passed by a joint sitting of the two houses.

'Blackmail for NRO'

The opposition's moves to block two FATF-linked bills on Aug 25 drew an immediate and strong reaction from Prime Minister Imran Khan who wrote a series of tweets to attack the opposition parties, saying they were “blackmailing” his government by blocking crucial FATF bills to get away with corruption cases against them.

Khan said “from day one, I have maintained that the self-serving interests of the opposition leaders and the country’s interests are divergent”.

The PM claimed that opposition leaders had become desperate to save their corrupt money by trying to prevent Parliament from functioning “by seeking to undermine government’s effective Covid-19 strategy — a recognised global success story — and now by trying to sabotage Pakistan’s efforts to exit FATF grey list”.

He said the opposition was trying to “hide behind facade of democracy to protect their loot and plunder”.

“To blackmail for NRO by defanging NAB, they would even have Pak put on FATF black list to destroy nation’s economy & increase poverty. They keep threatening to bring down govt unless given NRO,” he had said, adding that “no matter what happens, my government will not allow any NRO as it would be betrayal of nation’s trust in holding plunderers of public wealth accountable”.

Soon after the prime minister’s tweets, both the PPP and the PML-N defended their act of opposing the bills.

PPP’s Sherry Rehman, while replying to the PM’s remarks, said they had opposed the bills as powers to arrest without warrants were being given to the police and investigators, adding that “this is neither required by FATF nor is it defensible in any even the most illiberal democracy”.

“These laws are being pushed as draconian laws,” she said. Moreover, she added, the FATF was being used “to expand the scope of NAB to witch hunt the opposition”.

PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had also declared the proposed bills as “black laws” and in violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens.

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