To preempt the possibility of Pakistan being blacklisted for failing to stop terror financing, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Friday unanimously approved the Anti-Terrorism Finance (amendment) Bill 2014.
The bill, which has already been passed by the National Assembly, was referred to the panel by the upper house on March 7 for a detailed review.
Under the chairmanship of Senator Talha Mehmood, the committee took up the second amendment on anti-money laundering bill on Friday and discussed various aspects of the legislation that was tabled by the interior ministry in the Senate in March in the face of strong opposition.
Finance ministry’s legal adviser Muneer Zia told the committee that the legislation is particularly aimed at addressing loopholes related to provisions on financing of terrorist outfits in the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. He stated that ministry looked forward to the panel’s approval at the earliest as the matter has been highlighted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which will meet on June 22 to discuss terrorist groups’ financing.
FATF is an international body comprising many countries and international organisations, which sets and monitors international standards on anti-money laundering efforts and counters illicit transactions, used to enhance financing for terrorism.
“If the amendment does not sail smoothly through the upper house before June 22, FATF will blacklist Pakistan like it did in the past,” Zia warned.
Talking to The Express Tribune after the meeting, Senator Talha said that while blacklisting would not cause much harm to Pakistan, the move would still cause embarrassment for the country. Keeping that in mind, the panel approved the bill, he said.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Senator Raza Rabbani, who was the main force behind the deferment of the proposed legislation in Senate and had termed it an infringement of basic human rights, did not come up with any proposals for amending the bill despite his earlier wish to do so.
When contacted, Rabbani said, “Even though I am not a member of the standing committee, its chairman has misused his powers by approving an extremely important legislation with only three members and without taking other members of the committee into confidence.”
In April this year, FATF warned Pakistan, Afghanistan and some other countries that it would blacklist them in June if they failed to pass anti-money laundering legislation.
Meanwhile, the first amendment of the Anti terrorism Bill 2014 was deferred to the next sitting of the committee.
Senator Tahir Mashhadi at this moment asserted that more than 45 MQM workers are at large while 26 others were assassinated extra-judicially.
Mashhadi said that in so-called search operations, innocent people are picked up in Karachi and while terrorists are roaming around without any fear as they are state-supported. “Over 17,000 people were arrested during the Karachi operation, however, no-one was awarded any punishment,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2014.