- PTI’s tunnel vision
Finally the amendments required in two laws by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have been passed by both the National Assembly and Senate. While the clearance of the bills would hopefully help Pakistan, the way the bills were passed has added to the antipathy prevailing between the government and the opposition.
The Government continued to delay the required legislation till the eleventh hour. The purpose was to give as little time as possible to the opposition to expose any flaws in the bills. Finally the government brought three bills but had to withdraw one after the opposition pointed out that it was in contradiction to the Criminal Procedure Code and basic human rights. The government then reportedly agreed to some of the amendments suggested by the opposition in the United Nations Security Council (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The opposition also wanted the government to support the amendments proposed by it in the NAB Ordinance. The next day, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the opposition of seeking a “package deal”, maintaining that the government told it to delink the anti-terror legislation from the NAB Ordinance in the larger national interest. Without allowing the opposition to respond, the House was adjourned.
This led to noisy protests by the opposition on Wednesday when the National Assembly finally passed the two bills without the amendments agreed with the opposition. Addressing the House earlier, the PML(N)’s Khawaja Asif rejected the claim that the NAB law was used as leverage to help pass the FATF related laws.
Better sense prevailed in the opposition-dominated Senate where the bill was first taken up by the Standing Committee on Law and Justice. The Committee was told that the amendments made in the bills were part of the terms of the FATF. A copy of the FATF demands was presented to the committee members. Senator Farooq Naek suggested an important amendment, which was accepted by the PML(N) and PPP members of the Committee. The Senate subsequently passed both the bills with the proposed amendment. The way the issue was resolved shows that even when the government is forced by circumstances to seek the opposition’s support in a matter of national interest, it tries its best to use the occasion to discredit the opposition.