Islamabad : There is an overlap and replication of exactly the same draconian additions in two laws recently passed by parliament relating to anti-money laundering (AML) offences and terror financing.
These are among a host of laws, mandated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to remove Pakistan from the grey list.
The only difference between the two new clauses is the different offence mentioned in them. In the amendment inserted in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, the crime is ‘terror financing’ while it is ‘anti-money laundering’ in the AML law.
In the ATA, a new section (19C) was added that states that the investigating officer ‘‘may with the permission of the court, within 60 days of such permission, use techniques including undercover operation, intercepting communications, accessing computer systems and controlled delivery for investigation of financing of terrorism under the law in force. This period of 60 days may be extended up to a further period of 60 days by the court on request made to it in writing. The court may grant extension, if it is satisfied, on the basis of situation/reasons given in the written request. The 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 the order for the purpose of this section’’. This was the only change in the ATA that was passed by parliament to what was stated to satisfy the FATF.
Section 9A was added to the AML Act, which was precisely the same, except the last sentence relating to the making of rules, as the one added to the ATA with the only change of offence from terror financing to money laundering.
The statement of objects and reasons of the amendment in the ATA 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 this section is to enable the law enforcement authorities via the instant insertion to take certain encountering techniques with an authoritative support of the courts of law to curb these menaces.’’
In the opposition parties’ view, these additions were most contentious and they kept opposing it till the last minute. They mainly objected to the custody of the accused for 120 days that they considered too long a period. They were also critical of “undercover operation, intercepting communications, accessing computer systems”. However, the government went ahead with its plan to pass these similar insertions in the AMLA and ATA.