The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with a majority vote amid sloganeering from the opposition benches.
This legislation is required to fulfil certain requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in order to bring the country out of grey list.
The legislation is aimed at empowering the federal government to direct authorities to implement various measures, with regards to the 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 United Nations.
UN Security Council Resolution 1373 requires member states to implement counter-terrorism measures, especially countering the financing of terrorism through their domestic laws. This obligation is implemented in Pakistan through Anti-Pakistan Act, 1997.
The bills were moved by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan earlier this week.
Minister for Communication and Postal Services Murad Saeed said there will be no compromise on accountability and no NRO will be extended to anyone.
Taking the floor of the National Assembly, he said it is regrettable that the opposition parties want NRO and are doing politics for extending support to important legislation meant for the national interest of the country.
The minister said no concession will be given to those who have plundered Pakistan.
‘NAB laws only applicable to opposition, not on super-corrupt govt’
Meanwhile, the PML-N leader Khawaja Asif regretted that accountability laws seem only to apply when the opposition is to be targeted, while “extremely corrupt” elements on the government benches enjoy immunity from the same laws.
The remarks were made during a fiery speech in the NA, during a debate on proposed changes to the laws related to FATF requirements and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
In his address, the former defence minister said that the opposition and his party want what is better for the country, and for this purpose, they “do not want to make the FATF controversial”.
“If history is any indication, those who make wrong laws fall victim to them. We do not want these people [the government] to be targeted by such laws [in the future],” he said, adding that his party wants the laws to be amended and is not opposed to the idea.
“They [the government] said they are not afraid of anything […] but they closed down the Ehtesab Commission in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There is no dishonest person in KP, everyone is an angel over there,” mocked the PML-N leader.
Asif alleged that while the opposition is being dragged through different accountability references, government lawmakers “have made an investment of Rs7 million using Zakat funds”.
Referring to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s earlier statement, the PML-N leader said that the amendment of accountability laws is needlessly being given political colour.
He recalled that the NA speaker had made a committee and it was agreed that all the bills will be sent to that committee.
“But an impression is being given that we are blackmailing [the government] over the issue of NAB, even though the government and opposition had discussed the matter first during our talks,” he said.
The PML-N leader said that among the eight proposed bills, a consensus had been built upon two bills related to FATF.
“Now is the time to amend these laws,” he said, regretting that the main objection to the accountability laws is that they are used for political victimisation.
He noted that one of the proposed laws was introduced by the government seeking an extension to the tenure of the serving NAB chairman; however, later on “they stepped back and brought another draft”.
About 95% of stranded Pakistanis brought back home
The assembly was also informed that around 95% of stranded Pakistanis have been brought back home in about two and half months in wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Parliamentary Secretary on Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas during question hour said that about 250,000 stranded Pakistanis were repatriated from across the world.
The majority of Pakistani zaireen have also returned from Iran. She said that around 25 zaireen are still living in Iran with their relatives and friends in Qom and Mashhad.
She said holy shrines in these cities are currently closed due to the second wave of COVID-19 in Iran.
Andleeb Abbas said the remaining Pakistanis are likely to return by next flight of Iran Air from Tehran to Karachi tomorrow and via the Taftan border.
The parliamentary secretary said that Pakistan Embassy in Tehran and Consulates in Mashhad and Zahidan are in constant touch with the Pakistani community to ensure their wellbeing and their return to Pakistan.