NA body approves amendments to money laundering law amid strong opposition

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ISLAMABAD: As opposition members stood against legislation regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML), the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs approved the 2nd amendment in AML Bill 2020, with a majority vote.

During the meeting of the committee, which was chaired by MNA Faizullah, at least nine members voted in favour of the amendment while six members from opposition parties cast their vote against the bill.

Opposing the AML bill, opposition members claimed that none of the recommendations they made regarding the bill was accommodated. However, the committee chairman said that the members had discussed the bill for seven hours in the last meetings and the objections raised by the members would be part of the proceedings of the committee.

PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar said he had strongly opposed the inclusion of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the AML Bill during the last meeting. “But NAB is still part of the bill.”

On this, officials of Financial Monitoring (FMU) claimed that in various criminal cases, NAB has already been assisting various investigation agencies. “It is very difficult to exclude NAB from the bill at the movement,” the FMU officials informed the committee.

Naveed Qamar said the government was bulldozing the FATF-related legislation through the parliament, adding that the proposed legislation might make it difficult for people to do business.

PML-N lawmaker Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said that the bill passed by the committee will increase harassment cases of businessmen in the country. “The government is bulldozing even international practices while approving such bills in haste without comparing what laws other countries have made to fulfil the FATF related conditions,” she said, adding that the government should not expect foreign investment after the legislation.

Another lawmaker of PML-N, Qaisar Ahmed Shaikh, expressed his concerns about the urgency shown by the federal government for enacting FATF related legislation. “FATF has not recommended what has been approved through the bill,” he said.

PPP lawmaker Hina Rabbani Khar claimed that the government was following tactics of harassing the opposition parties. The AML bill would also facilitate the ruling party to victimize the opposition.

The AML (second amendment) Bill 2020 will now need to be passed by the National Assembly. Through the bill, the fine for money laundering would be increased from the existing Rs5 million up to Rs25 million, and in case of legal persons, the fine may be increased to Rs100 million with the imprisonment of 10 years.
Pakistan is required by the FATF to implement an action plan to bring its financial system in compliance with the international FATF standards on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).

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