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September 23, 2020

FATF-specific bill shelved earlier, passed in different form

National

September 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A draconian anti-terror financing bill that was shelved during the government-opposition negotiations late last month, held to evolve a consensus on the legislation required by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), was passed by parliament in a different form but without changing its text even slightly.

The earlier bill sought an amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and was sponsored by the government. At the time, three bills were discussed between the two sides. A consensus on two of them had emerged and they were later unanimously passed by parliament, while the third one was abandoned after mutual consultations.

One change in the new bill is that it has been sponsored by a private member, Faheem Khan from Karachi belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Another difference is the same text was incorporated in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, instead of the CrPC.

Normally, government bills are moved by the concerned ministers while private members’ bills are tabled by the relevant MPs.

The new bill was passed swiftly in the National Assembly, then transmitted after a few minutes to the Senate where it was equally hurriedly rejected. The bill was subsequently approved by the joint session of parliament indicating that it was backed by the government.

Prominent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha confirmed to The News that the bill had exactly the same content and the same wording that was previously included in the amendment to the CrPC. “During the August talks, the government had agreed with the opposition that there was no need to make any such amendment as it is not required by the FATF.”

He said that the opposition representatives’ main objection to the CrPC bill was that keeping an accused in custody for 120 days was extremely harsh and the power could be misused.

The current legislation, the Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Act, which seeks to insert Section 19C in the ATA, states that the investigating officer “may with the permission of a court, within 60 days of its grant, use techniques including undercover operations, intercepting communication, accessing computer systems and controlled delivery of investigation of financing of terrorism under the law in force. The period of 60 days may be extended up to a further 60 days by the court on a request made to it in writing. The court may grant extension, if it is satisfied on the basis of the situation/reasons given in the written request. This provision shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other law for the time being in force. The federal government may make rules to regulate the procedure and execution of orders for the purpose of this amendment.”

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill states that terror financing is one of the major obstacles “which is not only playing a degrading role against the development of a country but also imbuing such elements with the financial means which are an ultimate threat against the internal and external peace of Pakistan and the allies to the extent. The genuine purpose behind the introduction of the bill is to enable the law enforcement authorities to take certain encountering techniques with an authoritative support of the courts of law to curb these menaces.”