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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body Friday passed an amendment Act relating to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) (Amendment) Bill, 2021, with a majority vote amid observations raised by the members of the opposition parties.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior which met with Senator Mohsin Aziz in the chair passed the bill with a majority vote of seven to four, after detailed discussion over the Act.

The opposition members raised question over the bill moved by the government and resisted its approval.

The seven members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allied parties including Saifullah Abro PTI, Fawzia Arshad PTI, Faisal Saleem Rehman PTI, Samina Mumtaz, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti BAP, Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), and Dilawar Khan, independent voted in favour of the bill, and two members each of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) including Senator Azam Naseer Tarar, PML-N Rana Maqbool PML-N, Maula Bux Chandio PPP, and Shahadat Awan PPP voted against the bill, saying they opposed the amendment and it is against the fundamental rights.

According to the amendments a “Central Authority” means secretary Ministry of Interior would be constituted.

All the request of Mutual Legal Assistance shall be processed and decided by the central authority.

The statement of objects and reasons of the act says that increase in transnational organised crime has made it necessary for international and Pakistan to improve effectiveness of legal instruments.

Lack of uniformity in law and weak coordination mechanism between countries affects combating crime across borders.

In order to overcome these challenges, essential legal cover was required for international cooperation in criminal matters through mutual legal assistance and extradition is intended to bridge existing gaps in respective countries towards effective law enforcement.

The requested state will provide mutual legal support to the requesting state by executing necessary actions on its territory in any specific criminal case warranting shared assistance.

Senator Azam Tarar, while opposing the amendments, said that the amendment is against the fundamental rights.

He said that he strongly opposed the amendments related to central authority means secretary Ministry of Interior.

If the central authority had minimum representation to take decision, he would have accepted it, he said.

He further said that we need to tell the FATF that our country also has laws.

Senator Rana Maqbool said that the amendment is against the constitution and we do not agree with this.

Senator Shahadat Awan said the central authority should have representation of the provinces.

Senator Dawar Khan asked would this amendment help Pakistan to move from grey list to white list.

On this, Director General (DG) FATF Khawaja Adnan said that due to serious efforts we have come out of danger of putting Pakistan’s name on black list and Pakistan’s name may be removed from FATF grey list in October.

He also briefed the committee about the bill.

When the PML-N Senator Tarar insisted to hold further discussion on the bill.

After detailed discussion, the chairman of the committee decided to settle the matter through voting.

Aziz asked members present to vote for or against the bill.

During the voting, seven members voted for the bill, while four opposed it.

After passage of the bill, Aziz said that members of the committee can present their observations in writing and the bill can be amended at any time.

Senator Samina Mumtaz, convener of the Senate Sub-committee on Interior submitted the progress report of the sub-committee constituted on “The Islamabad Capital Territory Food Safety Bill 2020.”

The report was adopted by the committee.

Deputy Director Immigration informed the committee about the status of the directions of Chairman Senate Mohammad Sadiq Sanjrani regarding the amendments in the passport and visa manual 2006.

He told the committee that all the suggestions will be incorporated within the next two months.

Senator Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari rose the recent harassment case involving Usman Mirza in the meeting which was viral on social media in Islamabad.

The Standing Committee took suo motu notice on the matter and decided to get a detailed briefing from the concerned in the next meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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