Two bills, which are crucial for the country’s removal from global watchdog Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, were approved with a majority vote by Senate on Thursday and later passed by the National Assembly in a matter of minutes amid the opposition’s protest with the amendments incorporated by the upper house.
Adviser to the PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan placed the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 before the upper house, a day after they were cleared by the National Assembly. After the Senate passed them, they bills containing the changes made by the upper house were sent back to the National Assembly for their clause-wise approval.
As the legislation was presented during the Senate session chaired by the house’s chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, the lawmakers belonging to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) expressed their reservations over not being allowed to speak on the matter.
The two bills were later passed with a majority vote. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said by passing the two bills, the Senate had proved that it was a mature forum that could set aside political differences for the sake of national interest.
“The Senate has defeated India's ambitions of having Pakistan blacklisted by the FATF,” he added. “It has played its role in the efforts to have Pakistan removed from the FATF’s grey list.”
Earlier, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by Javed Abbasi, unanimously approved both the bills with the proposed amendments. During the committee’s meeting, the foreign office’s special secretary said the directives of the FATF were being implemented through the bills.
The amended bills were later referred back to the National Assembly for their clause-wise approval.
Awan presented the bill during the session of the lower house with Speaker Asad Qaiser in the chair.
They were approved in around 11 minutes with a voice vote amid a vociferous protest by the opposition lawmakers.
The session of the lower house was then adjourned till for August 7.
Both the bills aim at fulfilling various requirements of the FATF – an inter-governmental organisation that sets global policies against money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan, which was placed on the FATF grey list in June 2019, is supposed to fulfill the body’s 27-point action plan in order to come out of its grey list and to avoid its blacklist of non-compliant countries.
The amendment in section 11O in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 states that “(2) any natural person not connected with a legal person or body corporate, who violates any provision of sub-section (1) shall be liable, on conviction to a term not exceeding ten years or with fine not exceeding twenty-five million rupees or with both.” The measures also include 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.
The bill seeking to amend the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948, in order to ensure the effective implementation of the resolution of the UNSC, has included news sections pertaining to indemnity, power to make rules and delegation of powers.
The new section on indemnity stated: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act.”
Under the bill, the federal government has the power to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act and the “Federal Government may, by order, delegate to a Pakistani person, entity or authority, subject to such condition as may be specified therein, all or any of the powers exercisable by it under this Act.”
The 1948 Act did not contain any indemnity clause to provide protection to the persons implementing in good faith. Besides, the provision for the punishment of the offenders was redundant as neither the punishment nor the mechanism for its enforcement was provided under the Act.
With the insertion of section 1100 (violation of UN Security Council Resolution) in the ATA, “a person is guilty of an offence if he, an any way whatsoever, refuses or fails to comply with the orders of the Federal Government under section 2 of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948”. It reiterates that “a person guilty of an offence under sub-section (1), shall be liable to conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or with fine not exceeding twenty five million rupees or with both.”