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Pakistan Parliament's Joint Session Passes 3 Crucial FATF-related Bills

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

This is part of the government's efforts to escape from being blacklisted by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

A joint sitting of Pakistan's Parliament on Wednesday passed three crucial Financial Action Task Force-related legislations as part of the government's efforts to escape from being blacklisted by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. President Arif Alvi called the joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Wednesday evening after Senate earlier in the day rejected the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, making it the third FATF-related legislation to have been blocked by the Opposition-dominated upper house.

Last month, the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Waqf Properties Bill, were rejected by Senate. The three legislations were part of efforts by Pakistan to move from the FATF's grey list to the white list. 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.

Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the joint session which was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser. The opposition staged a walk out after most of their proposed amendments to the bills were rejected and they were not allowed to speak.

Khan thanked lawmakers who voted in favour of the legislations for "standing with their country". During his address to the parliament, Khan said that the opposition's "attitude" on the bills showed that the "interests of [opposition parties] and their leaders were the opposite of Pakistan's interests".

"Going on the black list would mean sanctions, our economy crashing; we were hoping opposition would jointly pass legislation for FATF because its for Pakistan, not [our] personal interest," Khan said. According to Radio Pakistan, the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill 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", said the publication. According to the Anti-Terrorism Act (amendment) Bill, 2020, 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. The court may extend the period for another 60 days.

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 Paris-based FATF put Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID-19 pandemic.

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