ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved to amend a law to waive death penalty for the accused persons to be extradited from the European Union (EU) and also gave provincial counter terrorism departments the powers to investigate money laundering cases.
The provincial departments have been given the power to probe case of money laundering in a bid to fulfill conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that would hold second review of the implementation of its 27-point action plan next month.
The Asia Pacific Group (APG) – a FATF-style regional body – had declared lack of power to probe money laundering cases as a critical deficiency in Pakistani laws.
"In order to remove a hurdle in the way of extradition of politically influential people from the EU, the federal cabinet approved to amend the section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code of 1860," said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while briefing the media about the meeting.
The minister said the decision to waive death penalty would help in extradition of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) former chief Altaf Hussain, former finance minister Ishaq Dar and Hussain Nawaz and Hasan Nawaz – sons of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
H said the EU laws bar extradition of people to the countries that have capital punishment. "Many people could not be extradited from the EU due to death penalty in Pakistan," he added.
The section 302 of the PPC says whoever commits qatl-e-amd [premeditated murder] shall be punished with death as qisas [retaliation in kind]; punished with death or imprisonment for life as ta'zir [penalty] having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.
The minister did not clarify whether the government would promulgate a presidential ordinance or present a bill in parliament to amend the PPC of 1860. In case it takes the parliament's route, it will take months before the amendment is passed.
The information minister said in order to fulfill the FATF requirements, the federal cabinet also approved to give powers to provincial counter terrorism departments to register money laundering cases under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2010.
The minister also revealed his government's intentions to register cases against the members of Sharif family and former president Asif Ali Zaradari. He said these cases will be registered on the basis of investigations conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
"The federal cabinet expressed concerns over the recent disclosure of money laundering done by Shehbaz Sharif's family members. The cabinet was told that the law would take its course and the matter will be taken to the logical end," he added. He said $26 million money laundering is just the tip of the iceberg, as all the members of the Sharif family accumulated assets through money laundering.
The minister claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hamza Shehbaz made 95% of his total assets through money laundering while his brother Salman Shehbaz's 99% assets were the result of the illegal transactions.
Asif Zardari bought a bank to launder money, Chaudhry further alleged. He further claimed that the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's cabinet members were also involved in money laundering.
The current deterioration in economic conditions are rooted in corrupt practices of Sharif family and former President Asif Ali Zardari, he said. The sweeping allegations by the information minister may carry serious implications for the country at a time when it is on the grey list of the FATF.
The information minister also said the cabinet decided to abolish quota system for grade-1 to grade-5 jobs. Earlier, these jobs were given through the legislators but now these jobs would be given through computer balloting.
He said the cabinet also discussed the National Testing Service (NTS) and the various complaints against it. "The Public Service Commission would be revamped and jobs would be provided on the basis of merit," he added.
The minister said the government is planning to make the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) profitable again through public-private partnership. "The PSM used to be a profitable entity before the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took over the reins of the country," said Chaudhry.
The minister said six major international companies are interested in helping Pakistan run the project. The mill's current capacity is 1.1 million tonnes that will be brought up to 3 million tonnes. The country's total need is 9 million tonnes at the moment, so there is still ample room for improvement, he added.
Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan will launch the first phase of Apna Ghar Housing Scheme on April 17 (today). The first phase will facilitate construction of 135,000 houses.