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Pakistan parliament passes FATF-related bill

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Pakistan’s parliament has passed a bill for providing legal assistance in international criminal matters as part of efforts to fulfil the conditions set by the global financial watchdog FATF.

The Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) Amendment Bill was passed by the Senate, the upper house, on Friday amidst protest by the Opposition.

Pakistan was placed on the grey list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June, 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete it by October, 2019. Since then the country continues to be in that list due to its failure to comply with the FATF mandates.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, an increase in transnational organised crime has made it necessary for the international community and Pakistan to improve the effectiveness of legal instruments because lack of uniformity in law and weak coordination mechanism between countries affects combating of crimes across borders.

To overcome these challenges, the essential legal cover is required, it said.

“International cooperation in criminal matters through mutual legal assistance and extradition is intended to bridge existing gaps in respective countries toward effective law enforcement. The requested state will provide mutual legal support to the requesting state by executing necessary actions on its territory in any specific criminal case warranting shared assistance,” it read.

However, Opposition parties tried to stop it by saying that it would give unhindered power to the government to hand over to other countries Pakistan citizens based on allegations.

Dawn reported that the amendments proposed by Mushtaq Ahmad of Jamaat-i-Islami, who said the bill was against fundamental rights, Constitution, principles of natural justice and national interest, were rejected by a voice vote.

The bill was passed by majority vote as the Opposition kept on expressing its reservations.

Senator Ahmad called it a black day in the parliamentary history of the country and said the government could take action against a person by confiscating his property made through money laundering etc under the law without issuing him a notice and this was against the principles of justice.

He said the government would hand over Pakistani nationals to other countries without any notice.

He alleged that the government was paving way for the release of Shakeel Afridi, who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in 2011, and Indian death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav, through the proposed bill, an allegation rejected by the government later.

With Pakistan’s continuation in the ‘grey’ list, it is increasingly becoming difficult for Islamabad to get financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the debt-ridden nation.

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