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January 1, 2015

Mutual legal assistance law to help block terror financing


January 1, 2015

In a bid to curb terrorist financing, Pakistan will have to enact Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) law with the approval of Parliament and synchronise legal mechanism at provincial levels for tracking down financiers of terror groups.
"Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi was released by the court mainly because neither Pakistan nor India put MLA in place so the dossier sent out by New Delhi to Islamabad could not be held admissible as evidence before the court of law," former caretaker law minister and expert on international law Bilal Ahmer Sufi told reporters here on Tuesday.
MLA, he said, was in place in UK and in many other western countries. The military operation is just one aspect, which could be termed as surgery but the government would have to put in place legal framework to move ahead on blocking terror financing. He said the provincial governments would have to enact laws in order to place effective mechanism on all those fronts where powers were devolved under 18th constitutional amendment.
A mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public criminal laws.
The modern states have developed mechanisms for requesting and obtaining evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions. When evidence or other forms of legal assistance, such as witnesses' statements or the service of documents are needed from a foreign sovereign, states may attempt to cooperate informally through their respective police agencies or, alternatively, resort to what is typically referred to as requests for "mutual legal assistance".
The practice of mutual legal assistance developed from the comity-based system of letters rogatory, though it is now far more common for states to make mutual legal assistance requests directly to the designated "Central Authorities" within each state. In contemporary practice, such requests may still be made on

the basis of reciprocity but may also be made pursuant to bilateral and multilateral treaties that obligate countries to provide assistance.
This assistance may take the form of examining and identifying people, places and things, custodial transfers, and providing assistance with the immobilisation of the instruments of criminal activity. With regard to the latter, MLATs between the United States and Caribbean nations do not cover U.S. tax evasion, and are therefore ineffective when applied to Caribbean countries, which usually act as offshore tax havens.
Assistance may be denied by either country (according to agreement details) for political or security reasons, or if the criminal offence in question is not equally punishable in both countries. Some treaties may encourage assistance with legal aid for nationals in other countries.
Under the initiative of United Nations to counter terrorism, member states are negotiating an additional international treaty, a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism. This convention would complement the existing framework of international anti-terrorism instruments and would build on key guiding principles already present in recent anti-terrorist conventions: the importance of criminalisation of terrorist offences, making them punishable by law and calling for prosecution or extradition of the perpetrators; the need to eliminate legislation which establishes exceptions to such criminalisation on political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or similar grounds; a strong call for member states to take action to prevent terrorist acts; and emphasis on the need for member states to cooperate, exchange information and provide each other with the greatest measure of assistance in connection with the prevention, investigation and prosecution of terrorist acts.

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