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ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet has approved several Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests in criminal matters aimed at extending cooperation to other countries with respect to investigations.

On July 13, 2021 Interior Division briefed the Cabinet that the globalization of crime required states to have a wide range of methods for international cooperation with countries from the same region (regional instruments) and from different regions of the world (international instruments).

International cooperation was a process by which countries seek and provide many forms of legal assistance from and to other countries in criminal and other matters. International cooperation may be carried out through a formal request of legal assistance from the Central Authority of one state to another state through which the requested authority was asked to perform one or more specified actions, like collecting the evidence or interviewing the witnesses, etc, on behalf of the requesting country. These requests were conventionally transmitted through diplomatic channels or via central authorities.

The requested country was expected to respond at the earliest possible time. According to the Ministry of Interior, Pakistan was committed to providing timely and quality international cooperation to the international community in relation to criminal matters. To this end, new laws, policies and procedures had been instituted to ensure that authorities were able to respond to and seek quality requests for assistance.

A standalone Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act 2020 was passed and enacted on August 12, 2020. Section 3 of the said Act regulates the procedure for rendering and soliciting Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters in two ways: (i) Mutual Legal Assistance may be provided by Pakistan to a country on the principle of reciprocity reduced in writing; and (ii) (Bilateral-Treaty): "where the Federal Government considers it expedient to provide Mutual Legal Assistance in a criminal matter to a country which has not entered into an agreement with Pakistan (on the basis of reciprocity)."

The Ministry of Interior, being the Central Authority, had received 05 MLA requests from Poland, 01 MLA Request from Australia, 01 MLA Request from France, 01 MLA Request from Czech Republic, 01 MLA Request from Budapest and 04 MLAs from Turkey. These MLA Requests were required to be presented before the Federal Government/cabinet for approval for submission to LEAs in Pakistan.

The Cabinet has allowed Interior Ministry to extend cooperation with the countries which have sought MLA requests.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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