The Pakistan government on Wednesday managed to get two Financial Action Task Force (FATF) related bills passed by the National Assembly despite disruption in the House due to vociferous protest by the Opposition parties.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan moved the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
As the clause on voting began, the opposition legislators stood up to create a pandemonium, forcing the speaker to suspend the proceedings three times.
The protest was in response to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ‘s speech on Tuesday, in which he said that the opposition did not support the bills because the government refused to soften the anti-graft laws.
However, the government went ahead undaunted ignoring protest and succeeded to get the bills passed.
Through the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020, the government has proposed strict penalties and heavy fines for anyone supporting or facilitating any terrorist activity.
The second bill would empower the government to direct the Pakistani authorities to implement various measures, including the freezing and seizure of assets, the travel ban and the arms embargo on entities and individuals designated on the UN Sanctions List, in the Security Council resolutions.
Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council made Member States responsible for the implementation of counter-terrorism measures, in particular the fight against the financing of terrorism through their domestic legislation. The legislation was part of Pakistan’s effort to move from the Gray List Financial Action Task Force to the White List.
The Paris-based FATF placed Pakistan on the gray list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement an action plan by the end of 2019, but the deadline was later extended due to COVID-19.
The two bills will now be adopted by the Senate, which is dominated by the opposition.
In the event that the bills are rejected, the government would call a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate and try to get the bills through by a simple majority.
Official sources said that the government had already decided to call a joint sitting on Thursday due to fear of rejecting the bills in the Senate.
Government and opposition representatives met on Monday to forge consensus, but no progress has been made.
Later, Qureshi said that the opposition wanted to negotiate an amendment to the anti-corruption legislation in support of the related FATF legislation.
The allegation was rejected by the opposition and its Pakistan Muslim League leader, Khawaja Asif, said that Qureshi had misled the House on the issue.
The Government has prepared eight bills for anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation with a view to moving Pakistan from the FATF Gray List to the White List.
In its third and final plenary session, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic in June, the FATF decided to keep Pakistan on the “grey list” as Islamabad failed to control the flow of money to terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
The plenary was held under the Chinese Presidency of Xiangmin Liu.
With Pakistan’s continuation in the ‘grey list’, it will be difficult for the country to get financial aid from the IMF, World Bank, ADB and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the nation which is in a precarious financial situation.
If Pakistan fails to comply with the FATF directive by October, there is every possibility that the global body may put the country in the ‘Black List’ along with North Korea and Iran.
The FATF is an inter-governmental body set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
The FATF currently has 39 members, including two regional organisations, the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council.