ISLAMABAD: The government at the last minute on Monday deferred the presentation of five FATF-related bills in the National Assembly and decided to engage the opposition parties through Speaker Asad Qaiser in an effort to develop a consensus on the drafts like it did previously when parliament approved three such bills in order to meet conditions of the global money laundering and terror financing watchdog.
Sources told Dawn that the speaker on Monday approached the leadership of the opposition parties and formally invited them for talks at his official residence on Monday night in an effort to reach an understanding on the legislations that had already been passed by the National Assembly’s standing committees amid protest by the opposition parties which had announced that they would block these bills in parliament, accusing the government of bringing “draconian laws” on the pretext of meeting FATF conditions.
The leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had declared that they had opposed these bills in the committees and they would do so in parliament as well. The opposition had declared that until they could make amendments, they would not let these laws pass from parliament.
Invites opposition for talks; protesting JUI-F members sit in speaker’s gallery
During the session, the speaker allowed chairmen of the committees to present the reports on the bills, but did not take up a motion in the name of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan seeking suspension of the rules to allow the passage of the bills on the same day.
The deferment of the bills provided ample time to the members to speak on points of order on various constituency-related matters and the issues such as flood devastations in Balochistan and power outages in various parts of Sindh, particularly in Hyderabad.
The government had earlier planned to get the five bills related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) passed from the assembly despite the opposition’s protest and placed them on the agenda.
The bills on the agenda were the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
It was after hectic consultations with the PPP and PML-N and after accepting most of their amendments that the coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had managed to get the Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) Bill — for exchange of information and criminals with countries — passed in the joint sitting of parliament last week. Before it, the government had already successfully managed to get two FATF-related bills — the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the United Nations (Security Council) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, — passed separately from both the houses of parliament with the support of the two opposition parties and amid protest by other smaller opposition parties, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami and nationalist parties from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Meanwhile, the government on Monday also managed to get another FATF-related anti-money laundering bill passed from the NA committee on finance amid opposition’s protest and the bill is also expected to be placed before parliament along with the deferred legislations.
Earlier, the JUI-F members led by Asad Mehmood, the son of their party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, adopted a unique way to register their protest for keeping them out of consultative process on key legislations and not allowing them to speak during the last week’s joint session of parliament when they sat in the Speaker’s Gallery to watch the proceedings.
Under the rules, the members are not allowed to sit in the galleries and Speaker Asad Qaiser termed this act of the JUI-F members “a violation of the rules and an insult to the house”.
The speaker then suspended the proceedings to hold talks with the protesting members in his chambers when they refused to take their allocated seats in the assembly hall.
When the house resumed proceedings after nearly 50-minute break, the floor was with JUI-F’s Asad Mehmood, who lashed out at the government for, what he called, bulldozing legislations under the pressure from India which was evident from the speech of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who had stated that if they would not pass the bills, India would get an opportunity to put Pakistan into trouble.
“We cannot allow you to slaughter the people of Pakistan on whims of India,” he said, announcing that they would continue to oppose those legislations which undermined the country’s sovereignty.
He said the country could not be allowed to be run by those having weak nerves.
He asked the rulers to step down voluntarily to save the country from total destruction, stating that they would make sure that the ministers and the ruling party members continued to get perks and privileges.
The JUI-F leader regretted that the government had tried to give an impression that those opposing the bills were actually facilitating the enemies of Pakistan.
Launching a political attack, the JUI-F leader said they were still sticking to their stance that the present government had not come into power through people’s votes and it had been “imposed” on the country. He also castigated the treasury members for targeting the opposition’s senior leadership.
“If you will continue to use bad language against our leadership, we will be forced to identify those forces which have brought you to the power,” he said.
The JUI-F leader was responded by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, who recalled how in the past various parties got power through backdoor and with the help of military dictators.
The chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP), Sardar Akhtar Mengal, drew the attention of the house to the damages caused by floods in various parts of his home province.
He regretted that had they built small dams in the province some 20 years back, they would not have seen such destruction. He also criticised the government for not taking them onboard on key national issues.
Later, Babar Awan moved the resolutions to extend the Covid-19 (Prevention of Smuggling) Ordinance, 2020 and the Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 (IV of 2020) for a further period of 120 days after a customary resistance by the opposition parties.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2020