AML/CFT focus

Published August 5, 2023

ON the face of it, the hasty passage of a crucial bill to establish an authority is a continuation of the efforts being made to curb money laundering and terror financing as required by the FATF. The constitution of the new authority has been in the offing since late last year. The government had indicated its intention to create a mechanism taking forward the extensive work done during the four years between 2018 and 2022 to exit the FATF ‘grey list’ in October last year. Parliament’s nod to the National Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Authority Bill was necessary to give the required legal cover to the new body to “centralise and institutionalise” the efforts being made in silos in order to strengthen the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime in the country. Indeed, there was a need for an overarching body to supervise and coordinate matters pertaining to the national AML/CFT framework. At present, the work is spread vertically and horizontally — without coordination among quite a few federal and provincial departments, agencies, and institutions operating under different AML/CFT laws. The new law will allow the government to bring the National Counter Terrorism Authority and the federal Financial Monitoring Unit at the finance ministry under the proposed authority; the bill’s aim is to unify the state’s response by planning, combining, coordinating, and implementing the government’s policy through “exhaustive strategic planning and necessary ancillary mechanism”. This should help the authorities to monitor progress, and plug any loopholes before the country runs into serious problems. So far so good.

However, the way that the bill was rushed by the ministers through parliament has raised many an eyebrow. Their method is especially concerning because the governing coalition has of late attempted to bulldoze numerous important laws, including those that adversely affect civil liberties and freedom of speech in the country, through parliament days before its term ends. That no time was afforded to the members of the National Assembly or the senators to read the bills and discuss their merits and demerits has led many to question the government’s intentions. An opposition senator was justified in asking how so many bills being pushed through could be read in one day. This particular bill may be good but the government has made it controversial by disallowing a debate on it.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2023

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