Pak Opposition in Senate Blocks FATF Bill, Parliament Approves It

Pakistan’s Upper House (the Senate) on Wednesday rejected the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, a day after it was passed by the National Assembly (Lower House).

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

This is the third time the Financial Action Task Force-related legislation has been blocked by the opposition-dominated upper house.

Last month, the 104-member Senate had rejected the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, both of which are FATF-related, objecting to some of the provisions and linking its cooperation to retraction of remarks made by Leader of the House about certain opposition leaders.

The ATA (amendment) Bill, 2020, allows an investigating officer, with the permission of the court, to conduct covert operations to detect terrorism funding, track communications and computer system by applying latest technologies.

President Arif Alvi is said to have called a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament today where the government will try to get the three FATF-related bills passed. According to latest reports, these bills have been tabled in the joint session this evening amid uproar and protests.

These bills have been passed, says a tweet report.

The FATF-related bills include the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill and the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, all of which were previously rejected by the opposition-led Senate.

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 FATF – a global body that develops policies to curb money laundering and terror financing – put Pakistan on its grey list in June last year. Pakistan has to meet its 27-point action plan to escape getting blacklisted as a non-compliant nation.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote a series of tweets to attack the opposition parties, saying they were “blackmailing” his government by blocking crucial FATF bills to get away with corruption cases against them.

“The self-serving interests of the opposition leaders and the country’s interests are divergent”, he tweeted.

Khan claimed that opposition leaders had become desperate to save their corrupt money by trying to prevent Parliament from functioning…trying to sabotage Pakistan’s efforts to exit FATF grey list.

He said the opposition was trying to “hide behind facade of democracy to protect their loot and plunder”.

“To blackmail for NRO by defanging NAB, they would even have Pak put on FATF black list to destroy nation’s economy & increase poverty. They keep threatening to bring down govt unless given NRO,” he had said, adding that “no matter what happens, my government will not allow any NRO as it would be betrayal of nation’s trust in holding plunderers of public wealth accountable”.

Based on original reports in Dawn, Express Tribune.