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Web Desk
September 16, 2020

Opposition stage walkout as 3 FATF-related bills get passed during joint parliament session


Web Desk
Wed, Sep 16, 2020
A picture of government lawmakers during the joint session of the parliament where 3 FATF-related bills were passed today. Source: Screengrab Geo News

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi has summoned a joint session of parliament on Wednesday to vote on important bills related to Pakistan's obligations to the Financial  Action Task Force (FATF).

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the session summoned by President Arif Alvi and chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

The opposition staged a walk out in protest after most of their proposed amendments to the bills were rejected and they were not allowed to speak.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the session summoned by President Arif Alvi and chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

The opposition staged a walk out in protest after most of their proposed amendments to the bills were rejected and they were not allowed to speak.

Upcoming legislation for rapists

PM Imran addressed the session soon after the passing of the bills.

He said that the day marked an important one and parliamentarians present in the House had demonstrated they stand with Pakistan.

"Before moving on to the FATF bills, I will speak of the motorway incident," said the premier.

"We are thinking of passing legislation that not only protects our women but also our children whose lives are ruined.

"Rape should be viewed in this way that it is something that destroys lives. In our culture, families suffer also, and the children, especially, have life-long trauma."

The prime minister said the government will have a three-tiered approach.

"Firstly, we will have registration. Sex offenders everywhere are registered. They are usually repeat offenders," he said.

"Just like Abid. He was involved in a gang-rape in the past and he was able to get away with it," PM Imran said.

He said that far too many incidences go unreported. "We always find out that a small number is reported."

The premier said that a bill to address the issue of rape will be presented in the parliament soon.

"It will not only focus on exemplary punishment, but also conviction, to begin with, which is not easy. The kind of evidence required is very difficult to put forward."

He said that for the victim to stand in the witness box and provide a statement is also a very difficult task and so, the a "comprehensive legislation" will be introduced also keeping these aspects in mind.

'Opposition's interests opposed to Pakistan's'

"On FATF, we should all know that it wasn't during our government we fell under FATF's scrutiny and were put in the grey list. We inherited this problem [from past governments]," the premier said.

He said that blacklisting would mean sanctions and being cut off from other countries.

"A country already facing a depletion in foreign exchange reserves will see pressure on its currency.

"The fallen rupee will see a rise in prices on imports, including oil and then power, input costs such as petrol, diesel and then transport — this all leads to a rise in poverty," PM Imran said.

Citing the government's "success in emerging from the COVID crisis", he said even World Health Organisation is asking others to "learn from us".

"I was hoping the opposition will thank us for bringing the country out of the difficult time [...] in a democracy, the opposition has a great role, because they represent the public and safeguard their interests," PM Imran said.

"But when I saw the opposition's attitude [...] whatever my views had always been regarding the opposition proved true, the way they approached the FATF legislation," said the premier.

He said he thought the opposition will work together with the government because it is in Pakistan's interest. "Not only did they not thank us, but I was likened to Modi and his lockdown[...] all there has been in parliament is criticism. They should have praised us a little at least."

The prime minister said that during negotiations with the opposition, their behaviour "made it evident that their interests and Pakistan's interests are opposed".

He said that they only sought to protect their own interests and "attempted to blackmail us in every way possible".

PM Imran said that of 38 proposed amendments to the accountability law, they put forth their own amendments to 34 clauses. "They simply wanted to bury the NAB legislation."

"They used FATF legislation to save their own selves from corruption charges [...] when they saw we weren't being blackmailed, a snag occurred while discussing anti-money laundering legislation."

Discussing the menace of money laundering, he said illegally obtained funds are always kept abroad and invested in properties.

"The developing world is getting poorer because each year around $1,000bn go to developed countries this way."

He said this money, it it were used in the country, would go towards human development.

"These dollars that are sent abroad, it ultimately puts a pressure on the rupee [...] and then they ask us to exclude money laundering from [National Accountability Bureau] legislation," remarked the prime minister.

He said passing the legislation that had been approved today was most important for money laundering in particular. Citing a report by the US State Department, he said money laundering worth $10bn is carried out from Pakistan. "And the loan that we took from the IMF is $6bn [...] if we stop this money laundering we will no longer need these loans."

Addressing the opposition, he said that the government is ready to compromise on anything in favour of Pakistan "but we will never compromise on corruption".

The prime minister also lauded the passing of legislation pertaining to international best practices to be followed by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council.

Parliamentary proceedings

At the outset of the session, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan tabled the bill pertaining to Qaqf properties. 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 amendments in the bill.

Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP also objected to the bill being tabled by Awan as advisers to the prime minister do not have the authority to do so.

As PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sought to address the session, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said people who have proposed amendments should be allowed to speak instead.

"How can Bilawal speak if he hasn't 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 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.

Amid noise by the opposition, PTI MNA Maleeka Bokhari introduced amendments to clauses in the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill. As she continued to read these, the opposition staged a walk-out in protest.

Awan tabled the The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, which was also passed through voice voting without any resistance since the opposition were no longer in attendance.

The Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was then tabled by PTI MNA Faheem Khan and it too was passed without any incident.

Earlier today, in a session of the Senate, the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was rejected.

Adviser to the PM on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan had moved a motion on Monday under Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the House to refer the two bills to the joint sitting as provided by the Constitution. The motion was adopted by the House.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan convened a meeting of combined parliamentary parties of the ruling coalition to discuss the strategy for the important legislation.

According to sources, the prime minister directed the lawmakers to ensure their presence at the meeting to be held at 02:30pm at the Parliament House.

Bills rejected in Senate

On August 25, the opposition-ruled Senate had rejected the bills earlier adopted by the NA, as two major opposition parties – the PML-N and PPP – declined to support them.

The two parties insisted that the Leader of the House should withdraw his remarks against their leadership and the laid-down procedure concerning the bills be followed.

However, Dr Shahzad Waseem, who represents the prime minister in the House, maintained that he had not named anyone and made a general statement that Pakistan had not been put on the grey list during the PTI government.

The PPP legislators were adamant that Dr Waseem should clarify that no political leadership but the Foreign Office had issued a notification against other persons and outfits, including Hafiz Saeed, Lakhvi, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Awan had moved the bills for consideration and adoption. However, both were rejected through the voice vote.

Babar was of the view that the chair could use its discretionary power for consideration and passage of the bills, keeping in view the national security and interests, as members of all parties had already debated and considered the bills.