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ISLAMABAD: The joint sitting of the Parliament on Wednesday passed eight bills, including three related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), amid strong protest and uproar by the joint opposition, who later boycotted the proceedings of the House.

The three crucial FATF-related bills included the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020, were passed with a majority of vote of the joint sitting, which were previously rejected by the opposition-dominated Senate.

The bills moved by Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, include: "The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill", and "The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020", while "The Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020" was tabled by Faheem Khan.

According to the statement of subjects and reasons, "The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020" is aimed at proper management, supervision, and administration of Waqf properties in the territorial limits of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

"The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020" is aimed at streamlining the existing anti-money laundering law in line with the international standards prescribed by the FATF.

"The Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020" is aimed at addressing the issue of terror financing, one of the major obstacles, which is not only playing a degrading role against the development of the country but also imbuing such elements with the financial means, which are an ultimate threat to the internal and external peace of the country.

The purpose of the Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill is also to enable the law enforcement authorities to take certain encountering techniques with an authoritative support of the courts of law to curb terror financing.

The joint sitting also passed "The Surveying and Mapping (Amendment) Bill, 2020", and "The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2019".

The major objective of "The Surveying and Mapping (Amendment) Bill, 2020" is to stop and prohibit printing, displaying, dissemination or using incorrect and unofficial map of Pakistan.

"The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2019" is aimed at increasing the number of judges in the IHC from seven to 10, including the chief justice to overcome difficulties of the litigant public qua early disposal of long pending cases.

The joint sitting also passed "the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, 2020", "the Medical Tribunal Bill, 2019", and "the Pakistan Medical Commission Bill, 2019".

The House rejected all the amendments moved by the opposition, while adopting certain other amendments moved by the government side separately in the bills.

At the outset of the session, when the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, Babar Awan, moved a motion to table the bills, the opposition challenged his authority of being an adviser to move any motion in the House in the light of the IHC's recent verdict.

PPP's Raza Rabbani, who was given the floor by Speaker Asad Qaiser, stated that as per the IHC verdict, the advisers and special assistants could not move motions or bills in the house.

However, responding to him, Minister for Law Farogh Naseem referred to the Article 93 and 57, saying that the advisers can present the bills and move the motions, but the only embargo on them is that they cannot vote.

Subsequently, the speaker allowed the adviser to move the motion.

When the speaker allowed the adviser to move the motion for presenting Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill for passage and a voice vote was conducted, the opposition challenged the vote.

Subsequently, the speaker proceeded to conduct a vote count, asking the lawmakers in favour to stand up.

On the motion to present the bill, 200 members voted in favour and 190 opposed it - a 10 vote difference.

The House witnessed uproar and a strong protest amid sloganeering by the opposition lawmakers when the speaker turned down their repeated requests to allow them, particularly Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, to speak on the bills.

When the speaker granted the floor to Bilawal, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi objected, saying that since the PPP chairman is not the mover of any amendment, therefore, he cannot be given the floor.

Upon this, the PPP lawmakers responded with slogans such as "Lota! Lota! [turncoat!]turncoat!", besides raising other slogans, such as "Vote Ko Izat Do

"Give Respect to the Vote]".

On the other side, the treasury benches also responded with counter slogans such as "No NRO! No NRO!"

The members, belonging to the joint opposition, also gathered in front of the speaker's dias to register their protest, and walked out of the House, after tearing and throwing copies of the various bills.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020