ISLAMABAD -- The Pakistani government has passed two bills as part of its effort to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The Paris-based inter-governmental organisation in June 2018 placed Pakistan on its grey list for failing to take action against money laundering and terror financing.
It extended a deadline for Islamabad to complete an action plan aimed at meeting the FATF's requirements to September.
The National Assembly Wednesday (July 29) and the Senate Thursday (July 30) passed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Amendment Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism Act Amendment Bill, 2020.
The new legislation includes measures to enable Pakistan's government to enact asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes on entities and individuals designated by the United Nations. They cover heavy fines and long-term prison sentences for those facilitating militancy.
UNSC resolutions 1267 and 1373 require member states to implement counter-terrorism measures, including the countering of terror financing through their domestic laws. This obligation is implemented in Pakistan through the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
"It was necessary for the FATF-related bills to pass in parliament for the removal of Pakistan from the global financial watchdog's grey list," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said during a news conference after the National Assembly session on July 29.
Despite differences with the government on various matters, the opposition has no objection to FATF-related bills "and we will support [them] in the interest of the country," Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz senior leader and former prime minister, said at a news conference on July 30.
Pakistan received a final warning in February to meet the FATF's requirements by June or risk blacklisting by the watchdog. The FATF extended the deadline to September because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Pakistan is fully compliant on 14 action points out of 27," Financial Monitoring Unit Director General Lubna Farooq told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday (July 27).
The implementation report will reach the FATF by August 6, while the deadline to complete the legislative work is August 15, Farooq said.
As part of the effort, the Interior Ministry outlawed 11 charities associated with extremists in a series of actions in March and May 2019.
In March 2019, the ministry banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF). Both were fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which has been an illegal organisation since 2002.
In May 2019, the ministry banned outfits affiliated with JuD and FIF: Al-Anfal Trust, Idara-e-Khidmat-e-Khalaq, Dawat wal Irshad, Alhamd Trust, Mosques and Welfare Trust, Al-Madina Foundation Trust, and Maaz bin Jabal Educational Trust (JuD affiliates), as well as the Al-Fazal Foundation/Trust and Al-Easar Foundation (FIF affiliates).
Political and defence analysts are hopeful that Pakistan will make rapid progress on the remaining 13 points before the deadline.
The passing of the bills allows a sigh of relief to some extent, said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think-tank.
"However, because of the lethargic approach by the government, we are doing all this exercise at the 11th hour, which is not a favourable tradition," he said, adding that, because of this hastiness, the amendments might fail to address some human rights issues.
Pakistan has taken several steps to fulfill FATF requirements, said Peshawar-based senior security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah.
Although pressure will remain even after passage of the bills, "it's a win-win situation for all," Shah said, praising the role of the opposition in supporting the legislation.