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Govt bills approved from Senate with opposition’s amendments

Top Story

July 31, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition joined hands in the Senate on Thursday and passed the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) Amendment Bill, 2020, by incorporating amendments from the opposition, as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hoped this would help Pakistan come out of the FATF grey list.

These two were also passed in the National Assembly a day earlier. The JUI-F strongly opposed this legislation in the Senate and announced not to support the opposition in the House while criticising the PML-N and PPP for being allegedly hand in glove with the PTI-led government.

The Senate meeting was preceded by a meeting of the Senate Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi of the PML-N, which passed the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill and the UN Security Council Amendment Bill after detailed deliberations.

Senator Abbasi presented the committee reports on the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations (Security Council) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which were readily adopted by the House. Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan put the two bills for consideration and adoption at once and hence were adopted by the House.

Speaking on the bills, Senator Javed Abbasi clarified that no party was against the legislation and that only the procedure was discussed in the Parliament Wednesday and they wanted the legislation to be so good that it could not be misused in the country.

After the passage of the bills, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi maintained that Pakistan was no longer justified in the gray list and contended that the latest legislation would be immediately forwarded to the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) and hoped that the AGP would review it and present it at the 'plenary' meeting in October.

He explained that now that Pakistan had completed all the steps, there was no justification for keeping Pakistan on the gray list. He hoped that Pakistan would be included in the white list and he thanked the nation, the government and opposition parties. He hoped JUI-F would also reconsider its position, as the matter was purely of national interest.

Qureshi said that the Senate has proved once again that it was a strong-minded and serious House where the interests of Pakistan would come ahead of the party lines and personal interests. He thanked the House for approving both the bills and said that India had been trying for a long time to get Pakistan included in the FATF blacklist and its aim was to keep Pakistan in financial difficulties. “But today, we have failed it again,” he said.

Qureshi said that some members were concerned about the implications of the ordinance on Kulbhushun Jadhav, he is in jail, his sentence has not been commuted. He said that no concession was made to the Indian spy.

“The legislation has set a positive example by adopting a consensus and conveying the message that all political parties are on the same page for the sake of the country,” said Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem. He said that collective wisdom had been paid off, and added that some issues were related to state and national security, while the government and opposition keep coming and going, but the country is here to stay.

Earlier, the PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan claimed that it seemed that Kulbhushan was not in the country and said that “during our tenure, Indian spy was arrested and sentenced to death but now it seemed that the government had made a plan regarding Kulbhushan and they were throwing dust in the eyes of the people”.

He said that the present government had given consular access to Kulbhushan three times but why he did not accept it was a very important issue. On the insistence of the opposition, the economic terrorism bill was withdrawn. One key amendment proposed to the UNSC amendment bill by the opposition was about disallowing international entities to intervene directly in Pakistan. Accordingly, ‘Pakistani entity’ has been put in the bill.

Similarly, the definition of ‘person’ in the related ATA bill has been changed to remove many entities of Pakistan. And, the bill should cover only the activity of terrorist groups. Earlier, the way it was defined, it allowed the international actions on institutions including regulatory bodies. These amendments were made part of the final proposed legislation.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly passed the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill 2020, as amended by the Senate, following an understanding between the government and the opposition on certain amendments.

The two bills would become Acts of the Parliament after signing by President Dr. Arif Alvi.

Earlier, as per agreement, the Senate passed the two bills.

The two bills, which would also meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), were also approved by the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice while accommodating amendments from the opposition parties. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented the bills.

JUI-F members, as already announced by the party leadership, opposed the bills. Speaker Asad Qaiser did not give the floor to Maulana Asad Mahmood, who wanted to register his protest and adjourned the proceedings until August 7.

The whole process of passage of the two bills was carried out after the two main opposition parties late Wednesday night conveyed to government that there would be no cooperation on legislation if their amendments were not accommodated.

The National Assembly session, which earlier was prorogued on Wednesday, was summoned late Wednesday night. “We have proposed amendments to four words used in the United Nations Bill, while the government also accepted our amendments to the anti-terrorism bill that the definition of a person would be considered as per other laws of the country,” PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told reporters.

He said the government had approached the opposition last week seeking cooperation for passage of four bills, including the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) bill, 2020, the Anti Terrorism (Amendment) bill, 2020, the Economic Terrorism bill and the bill relating to changes in the NAB Law.

“The government also desired that the four bills be passed at a time,” Abbasi said. Abbasi said he never witnessed such a horrible bill like the Economic Terrorism Bill in his 32 years political career.

“The bill provides for picking up any Pakistani initially for 90 days with extendable period of 90 days without producing him in a court of law,” he said. Abbasi said the legislation, which later was withdrawn by the government, had nothing to do with the FATF conditions.

He said the federal and provincial committees, which were to deal with picking up any Pakistani would also comprise officers from sensitive organizations of the country. “We questioned the bill and told the government people that they should use some wisdom,” he said.

He said during a meeting held with the ministers and advisers at the Speaker’s House, he himself told them that the opposition would not link the bills related to FATF conditions and NAB bills with each other.

“I told the government that the opposition very well knew security concerns of the country and will not bargain with the government on NAB laws while passing FATF bills,” he said. Senator Dr. Sherry Rehman told reporters that the government had deceived the opposition while getting the FATF bills passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday without accommodating the opposition’s amendments.

Following the opposition’s protest, Sherry Rehman said the government agreed to include their (opposition) amendments to two bills.

She said the bone of contention was not the NAB but the FATF. “We made sure that our proposed amendments to the FATF legislation by the 24 members of the notified committee were included. We did not let them bulldoze it without amendments". She said the government was trying to move these bills without the opposition’s amendments.