Govt succeeds in getting FATF-related bills passed through parliament

House votes amidst ruckus; Opp stages walkout

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ISLAMABAD: Amid ruckus in the House, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Wednesday managed to get all three bills related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) passed through the joint session of the parliament.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the session, which was chaired by National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser.

At the outset of the session, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan tabled the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill. A voice vote was conducted and the motion to table the Bill was passed.

Subsequently, the NA speaker proceeded to conduct a vote count, asking the parliamentarians in favour to stand up. On the motion to present the bill, 200 voted in favour and 190 opposed it.

The bill was read out clause by clause, with amendments to some clauses approved, while others were rejected by a voice vote.

Opposition members loudly voiced their opposition to the amendments in the bill.
Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan-People’s Party (PPP) objected to the bill being tabled by Awan as advisers to the prime minister do not have the authority to do so.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sought to address the session, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that people who have proposed amendments should be allowed to speak instead.

“How can Bilawal speak if he he has not proposed an amendment,” he remarked.
His statement was echoed by Awan who read out the rules of the parliament and underlined the importance of the anti-money laundering bill, which he said was essential for Pakistan to exit the FATF grey list.

Former premier and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, after standing up to move an amendment, said that the way the session is being conducted makes it impossible to know which amendment is being discussed.

“If you read Rule 126, [you will find] it is important to have held a general discussion before we move on to the amendments,” he said.
Subsequently, Abbasi’s proposed amendment was rejected by the House through a voice vote.

SENATE BLOCKS FATF LEGISLATION

This development came hours after the Senate blocked the legislation, making it the third crucial FATF-related legislation to have been blocked by the opposition-dominated upper house.

Under the 18th Amendment, if a bill passed by one house of Parliament is rejected by the other, it can become a law only if it is passed by a joint sitting of the two houses.

The House last month rejected two crucial bills — the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill — both of which were also FATF-related, objecting to some of the provisions and linking its cooperation to retraction of remarks made by Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem.

The 104-member Senate had on August 25 rejected two bills through a voice vote that had already been passed by the NA the previous day.

During today’s session, 31 members voted in favour of passing the bill on terror financing while 34 voted against it.

According to the content of the proposed legislation, the investigating officer, with the permission of the court, can conduct covert operations to detect terrorism funding, track communications and computer system by applying latest technologies in 60 days.

In addition, written requests would be made to the court for an extension in the investigation and the court may extend the period for another 60 days.
The current law will not contradict any other law and the federal government will strengthen the procedure and formulate rules for the implementation of orders.

The bill said funding for terrorism was a major obstacle in the country’s development and a source of disgrace to it. Terrorism funding was benefiting those elements which were not only a threat to internal and external peace of the country but also its allies, it said.

“The main purpose of introducing this bill is to enable law enforcement agencies to eradicate these curses by adopting certain preventive techniques with the empowered assistance of the courts of law.”

Meanwhile, the Senate passed the Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2020. It was introduced by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, according to which the registrar will provide details of the society’s owners, officers and members when requested by relevant authorities.

If the society registrar does not provide the information, its registration will be suspended, the bill read. A registrar will keep a five-year record of the societies that have their registration suspended.

The relevant society officer will have to pay Rs1 million in case of violation of the law, according to the bill. If a member, employee, officer or secretary of a cooperative society is found to have committed fraud or corruption, he will face a punishment of five years along with a fine of Rs2 million.

If corruption is found to have been done in the cooperative society, then a fine of one-fourth the investment or Rs10m will have to be paid, the bill said.

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