Wednesday Jul 29, 2020
Two bills — the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed in the National Assembly on Wednesday with a majority vote amid much commotion from the opposition benches.
This legislation is required to fulfil certain requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in order to bring the country out of grey list.
The legislation is aimed at empowering the federal government to direct authorities to implement various measures, with regards to the Security Council resolutions including the freezing and seizure of assets, travel ban, and arms embargo on the entities and individuals, who are designated on the sanctions list of the United Nations.
UN Security Council Resolution 1973 requires member states to implement counter-terrorism measures, especially countering the financing of terrorism through their domestic laws. This obligation is implemented in Pakistan through Anti-Pakistan Act, 1997.
The bills were moved by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan earlier this week.
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, meanwhile, regretted that accountability laws seem only to apply when the opposition is to be targeted, while “extremely corrupt” elements on the government benches enjoy immunity from the same laws.
His remarks came during a debate on proposed changes to the laws governing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The amendments had been tabled as part of a legislative effort to meet requirements for Pakistan's desired exit from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.
In his address, the former defence minister said that the opposition and his party want what is better for the country, and for this purpose, they "do not want to make the FATF controversial”.
“If history is any indication, those who make wrong laws fall victim to them. We do not want these people [the government] to be targeted by such laws [in the future],” he said, adding that his party wants the laws to be amended and is not opposed to the idea.
“They [the government] said they are not afraid of anything [...] but they closed down the Ehtesab Commission in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There is no dishonest person in KP, everyone is an angel over there,” mocked the PML-N leader.
Asif alleged that while the opposition is being dragged through different accountability references, government lawmakers "have made an investment of Rs7 million using Zakat funds".
Referring to foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's earlier statement, the PML-N leader said that the amendment of accountability laws is needlessly being given a political colour.
He recalled that the NA speaker had made a committee and it was agreed that all the bills will be sent to that committee.
“But an impression is being given that we are blackmailing [the government] over the issue of NAB, even though the government and opposition had discussed the matter first during our talks,” he said.
The PML-N leader said that among the eight proposed bills, a consensus had been built upon two bills related to FATF.
“Now is the time to amend these laws,” he said, regretting that the main objection to the accountability laws is that they are used for political victimisation.
He noted that one of the proposed laws was introduced by the government seeking an extension to the tenure of the serving NAB chairman; however, later on “they stepped back and brought another draft”.
Last week, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the government has prepared eight bills for legislation on anti-money laundering and terror financing with a view to move Pakistan into the FATF's "white list" again.
"The prime minister wishes that the opposition be taken into confidence on this matter of national importance [...] time is of the essence here. We must act timely so that the Asia Pacific Group (APG), of which Pakistan is a member, can place the government's practical steps before the [FATF] plenary which will then decide whether the obligations Pakistan was subjected to were fulfilled or not," said the foreign minister.
Qureshi said one law pertaining to the National Accountability Bureau has also been drafted. “The opposition has expressed its reservations about the NAB law,” said Qureshi.
“We are prepared to make changes in the NAB law,” he said, adding that the PPP and PML-N both had an opportunity but each failed to amend the said laws.
The FATF has urged Pakistan to make amendments to Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Foreign Exchange Regulation laws within the next three months to meet the requirements of its Action Plan.
The financial watchdog has extended the deadline for Pakistan till the next plenary meeting, expected to be held in October 2020.