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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed, amid uproar and protest from the opposition parties, two bills critical for Pakistan's compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements to possibly bring the country out of its "grey list".

The bills, including "The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020" and "The United Nations [Security Council] (Amendment) Bill, 2020", were passed hurriedly with a majority of vote amid opposition's protest over the procedure of the passage of the bills as well as not giving an opportunity to them to express their position on the bills.

Both the bills were presented by the Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs, Babar Awan.

The legislation is aimed at empowering the federal government to direct authorities in Pakistan to implement various measures in light of the UN Security Council resolutions including the freezing and seizure of assets, travel ban and arms embargo on the entities and individuals, who are designated on the "sanctions list" of the UNSC.

In the statement of objects and reasons, "The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020" stated that the UNSC resolutions 1267 and 1373 require member states to implement counterterrorism measures, especially countering the financing of terrorism through their domestic laws.

The penalties already described in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, were not dissuasive for violations of assets seizure provision in Section 110 and the provided amount of fine was insufficient.

According to the amendments made in sub-section (2) of Section 110, Act of 1997, the "penalty of fine not exceeding Rs10 million" has been substituted with a maximum fine of Rs25 million and the terms on conviction up to 10 years or both.

In sub-section (3), the fine has been increased up to Rs25 million, punishment of maximum 10 year on conviction or with both if director, officer or employees were found guilty of the violation.

After sub-section (3), a new sub-section has been inserted, which started "(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub section (2), if any public servant is found negligent in complying with the provision of sub-section (1) such public servant shall be proceeded against under respective service rules for administrative action.

"The United Nations [Security Council] (Amendment) Bill, 2020", states in its statement of objects and reasons that the already existed Act does not contain an indemnity clause to provide protection to the persons implementing in good faith the orders passed under the Act.

Furthermore, there is a requirement to give powers to the federal government to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act.

In addition, the power to issue orders under the Act need to be delegated by the federal government to ensure that the orders are issued in a timely manner, within a matter of few hours, as required by the Security Council.

The two bills were passed in a hurry in less than 10 minutes when the opposition lawmakers were protesting inside the House, which also rejected the amendments proposed by the PML-N MNA, Rana Sanaullah, in the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The opposition lawmakers gathered in front of the speaker's dais, tearing the copies of the bills and also chanting slogans as "go Niazi, go", while the government side was responding with counter sloganeering, which created a rumpus in the House.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020