–PM Imran calls out opposition, says ‘their leaders’ interest and Pakistan’s interest are opposite’
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.
Many opposition leaders, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif, staged a walkout after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was denied permission to address the floor by National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser during the session earlier in the day. Despite this, the affairs of the house continued.
The bills moved by Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan include The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill and The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020, while The Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020, was tabled by Faheem Khan. All three bills were related to FATF.
According to the statement of subjects and reasons, The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020 is aimed at proper management, supervision, and administration of Waqf properties in the territorial limits of Islamabad Capital Territory.
The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020 is aimed at streamlining the existing anti money laundering law in line with international standards prescribed by FATF.
The Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020 is essential to address the issue of terror financing, one of the major obstacles which is not only playing a degrading role against the development of the country but also imbuing such elements with the financial means which are an ultimate threat to the internal and external peace of the country. It enables the law enforcement authorities to take certain encountering techniques with an authoritative support of the courts of law to curb terror financing.
When 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 are loudly voicing 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.
The joint sitting also passed The Surveying and Mapping (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Major objective of The Surveying and Mapping (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is to stop and prohibit printing, displaying, dissemination or using incorrect and unofficial map of Pakistan.
The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is aimed at increasing the number of judges in IHC from seven to ten, including the chief justice to overcome difficulties of the litigant public qua early disposal of long pending cases.
Other bills passed by the Joint Sitting of the Parliament include Pakistan Medical Commission Bill, 2019, The Medical Tribunal Bill, 2019, and The ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, 2020.
IMRAN ASSAILS OPPOSITION:
Addressing the joint sitting of the parliament, PM Imran said that the government is ready to cooperate with the opposition for the sake of the country and democracy but emphatically stated that no compromise will be made on corruption. He said that FATF-related legislation passed by the House is very important for the country’s future and to steer it out of the grey list.
He said that Pakistan will get out of the FATF grey list like it fought Covid-19 pandemic successfully when compared with India or Europe.
The prime minister said that he was confident that opposition will support the government in FATF-related bills, but his all doubts against opposition leaders proved correct when they opposed bills in the sitting as they do not want to see Pakistan making progress.
He accused the opposition of sabotaging the government’s efforts to exit the FATF grey list.
Thanking his party members and allies for getting passed FATF-related bills, he that said their conduct has proved that they stand by Pakistan. He was of the view that failing to pass these laws could push Pakistan to blacklist which could have serious economic consequences for the country.
The premier regretted the posture of opposition parties, saying they created hurdles in the way of this legislation. He said that the opposition tried to blackmail the government to protect their vested interests and the looted money of their top leaders. For this purpose, he added, they proposed 34 amendments in the NAB law. He questioned how a country could progress when billions of dollars were laundered abroad. “This only puts pressure on our foreign exchange reserves,” he further said.
He said that if the top opposition leaders are not involved in money laundering then why they were opposing the anti-money laundering bill.
Talking about the recent incident of rape on motorway, the prime minister said that a comprehensive legislation will be enacted to award exemplary punishment to the sex offenders. He said that this piece of legislation will also provide protection to the women and the children. He added that it will also ensure protection of the witnesses to convict the persons involved in such ghastly acts.
PM Imran said that the rape incident on motorway shook the entire nation. He said that one accused person has been arrested while the other will also be arrested soon. He stressed the need for registration of the sex offenders as is the case in the rest of the world.
SENATE BLOCKS KEY 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 Wednesday’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.