Pakistan’s Parliament has narrowly passed a bill that will allow the exchange of information and of criminals with countries - to meet a requirement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). There was stiff resistance to the passage of the bill from the Opposition where the parliamentary leader of the main Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khwaja Asif, said that by approving the bill, they would be “surrendering the country’s sovereignty”.
He told the House that efforts were being made by international financial institutions to colonise countries like Pakistan which were financially dependent on them. “Please do not rush the bill to meet someone’s deadline. Let us debate the matter,” he said.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Abdul Qadir Patel claimed that there was a clause in the bill which allowed the government to hand over individuals to countries even without demand. Another vocal PPP leader and member of Pakistan’s National Assembly (lower House of Parliament) Shazia Marri pointed out some drastic spelling mistakes in the draft, saying this showed that the bill was being passed in haste.
Besides the parliamentary affairs minister, newly-appointed Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar and Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the bill and criticised the Opposition for creating unnecessary hurdles in the way of the passage of such an important legislation.
Meanwhile, in a related development, a senior official said that Pakistan hoped to win a “largely-compliant” rating from the FATF on the implementation of its 27 action points, which might help the government get more time from the watchdog for full compliance.
“For the February plenary meeting of the FATF our target is to be largely compliant on most of the action points,” Director General of Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) Mansoor Siddiqui told a parliamentary panel.
Siddiqui was speaking during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, which was convened to approve amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Act and the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act.
Siddiqui’s statement comes two days before the submission of Pakistan’s last progress report on the implementation of the FATF Action Plan to the Joint Group of the FATF. Pakistan and the Joint Group will meet in Beijing on January 21 and 22, Siddiqui said.