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ISLAMABAD: In a bid to get the country out of the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF's) grey list, the treasury and opposition benches in National Assembly on Wednesday passed five government bills related to the FATF through consensus. The government managed to build a consensus in order to incorporate its amendments in "The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020", due to which the opposition neither opposed nor supported the bill, paving the way for the treasury to pass the bills.

The bills moved by Law Minister Farogh Naseem included, "The Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020", "The Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020", "The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020", "The Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2020", and the "Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill, 2020". The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the implementation of the orders passed by the federal government under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948. The amendments were considered essential in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

The scope of the application of the penalties needs to be extended to those who are involved in terrorism in any manner outside the boundaries of the country, in addition, it is considered essential to match the penalties, fines and restrictions for same kind of punishments and to provide legal powers to the law enforcement agencies for speedy trials and disposal of cases.

Furthermore, the facilities required for meeting the necessary expenses through exemptions are also required to be incorporated in detail.

The Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, has suggested various amendments to the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2017, to ensure compliance with the recommendations on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism issued by the FATF.

Pakistan's 2019 Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) on the FATF recommendations issued by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) highlighted lack of obligations for limited liability partnerships (LLPs) to hold ultimate beneficial ownership information.

The report also highlighted a lack of penalties for breach of the AML/CFT requirements by the LLFs. Accordingly, the proposed amendments are being made to ensure compliance with FATF's recommendation aimed at enhancing the transparency of legal persons, to fulfill the recommended actions in the MER, and to enhance the country's ranking against the aforesaid standards. These are also aimed to conform to the action plan approved by the National Executive Committee on the AML/CFT for compliance with the FATF recommendations.

The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, has suggested various amendments to the Companies Act, 2017, to ensure compliance with the recommendations on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism issued by the FATF. Pakistan's 2019 MER on the FATF recommendations issued by the APG highlighted certain deficiencies including a lack of explicit prohibition on issuance of bearer shares or bearer share warrants, lack of obligations for companies to hold beneficial ownership information, etc.

The report also recommended that the persons who breach the required measures shall be made subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Accordingly, the proposed amendments are being made to ensure compliance with the FATF's recommendation aimed at enhancing the transparency of legal persons, to fulfill the recommended actions in the MER, and to enhance the country's ranking against the aforesaid standards.

These are also aimed at conforming to the action plan approved by the National Executive Committee on AML/CFT for compliance with the FATF recommendations.

The Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill, 2020, is aimed to enhance the effectiveness of the implementation of the orders passed by the federal government to cater to effective administration and financial monitoring and evaluation of the trusts relating to registration, administration and monitoring of trusts registered within the territorial limits of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of "The Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2020", Pakistan has been given final lifeline by the FATF to meet the deficiencies with regards to money laundering and terrorists financing highlighted by the Asian Pacific Group.

That vide para-41 of recommendation No 3 of Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) 2019, the FATF has observed a minor deficiency in Section 12 of the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNSI Act 1997) that it restricts the acts of concealment or disguise by making false declaration.

It is highlighted that as per Section 12 [c) of CNS Act 1997, the scope/applicability of the said section has been confined to "making false declaration with regard to ownership, source, location or true nature of assets".

Moreover, during the meeting held at the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU), it was intimated that legal regime of Pakistan with regard to the ML and the TF is largely compliant, however, in case the deficiencies are not met, it may result into negative impact upon the efforts undertaken by Pakistan to comply with the requirements/observations of the FATF.

Minister for Law and Justice Mohammad Farogh Naseem on the request of Maulana Akbar Chitrali deferred a bill - The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020.

PPP's Naveed Qamar said the treasury and opposition had brought the bill through consensus as the sword of the FATF was hanging over the country, for which, "we are doing this in national interest".

"We want all loopholes fixed in order to stop misuse of the bill," he maintained.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Naseem termed it a historic day for the country, saying the FATF-related legislation was being carried out with consensus in the larger interest of the country, according to the reports.

"Whitening the economy and checking terror financing is important to take the country forward on the path of development," the law minister was quoted as having said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that terror financing and money laundering were the menaces that the country had to confront and eradicate.

Long deliberations were held with the opposition parties in the lower house of the parliament to reach consensus on the FATF-related legislation, the reports said.

The House unanimously passed a resolution, urging the government that the name of holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be written as "Hazrat Muhammad Rasool Allah Khatam-un-Nabiyyin Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam" in all official and non-official documents.

Lawmakers of the JUI-F expressed support for the bill as part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) legislation.

The JUI-F MNA, Shahida Akhtar Ali, said that the government and the opposition were united when it came to Pakistan.

Terrorism has no religion, she said, adding that the term "terrorism" should be properly explained and defined.

"Our objection was on the procedure of the lawmaking. Legislation should be transparent so that questions are not raised later," she said.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal Chairperson Akhtar raised the objection that house needed to first specify what terrorism is and define who a terrorist is.

"It should first be specified what terrorism is," said Mengal.

"Does lodging an FIR against someone make them a terrorist? Someone who breaks a mirror may be declared a terrorist but the one breaking the Constitution of Pakistan is not," remarked the MNA. The resolution was moved by State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.

Through another resolution, the House recommended that the speech of founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam to the Constituent Assembly on 11th August 1947 regarding minorities should also be made a part of the syllabus.

Responding to a calling attention notice, Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi said fishermen would be made part of Kamyab Jawan Programme to build their capacity.

He said fishermen could also benefit from the incentives given in the shipping policy announced recently to uplift the industry.

He said efforts were afoot to exploit export potential of the fisheries sector. The Minister for Communications, Murad Saeed, said western route of the CPEC would be made a reality, adding, several mega road infrastructure projects had been envisaged for this year. He said construction work on Hyderabad-Sukkur motorway and Karachi-Chaman-Quetta highway would start this year.

He said the revenue of the NHA had been increased from Rs25 billion to Rs50 billion. The house prorogued sine die.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020