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PPP MNA Says Opposition Members Received ‘Unknown Calls’ Asking Them To Skip Joint Session

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Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA Agha Rafiullah has alleged that the opposition lawmakers received phone calls by unknown people, asking the members to skip the joint session of parliament that was held to vote on controversial FATF bills.

Speaking on a TV show, the Karachi lawmaker said the issue of these telephone calls was discussed in the National Assembly and was also brought to the notice of the top brass of the opposition parties.

When asked by the anchorperson, the lawmaker said these calls were by the same unknown people, who provided the JIT report on Uzair Baloch to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Ali Zaidi.

MNA Rafiullah further alleged that PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was also denied the chance to speak in the House on the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

FATF bills passed amid protest:

On Wednesday, the PTI government managed to pass all three FATF-related legislation in a joint session of parliament that was earlier blocked by the opposition-dominated Senate.

The first bill Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Waqf Properties Bill was initially passed through a voice vote, reported Dawn. However, upon the protest by the opposition lawmakers, the speaker asked the members to stand up for the vote count —  the bill was passed with 200 members voting in favour and 190 voting against it.

All the amendments proposed by the opposition lawmakers were rejected. Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ghani, who introduced amendments in several clauses, accused the speaker of ‘passing legislation illegally’.

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Amid the ruckus, PTI MNA Maleeka Bokhari introduced amendments in several clauses of the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, all of which were passed. At this, the opposition staged a walkout, as per the Dawn report.

The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, which was then tabled by Awan, was also passed through voice voting without any opposition. PTI MNA Faheem Khan tabled the Anti-Terrorism Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was also passed without opposition.

The ATA Bill proposes the investigating officer, with the permission of the court, can conduct ‘covert operations’ to detect terrorism funding, track communications and computer system by applying the latest technologies in 60 days.

“The main purpose of introducing this bill is to enable law enforcement agencies to eradicate these curses by adopting certain preventive techniques with the empowered assistance of the courts of law.”

However, the opposition says this vague clause in the bill is a threat to the civil liberties enjoyed by the Pakistani citizens and proposed amendments to change it.

Civil liberties under threat?

According to the news report, the deadlock between the government and the opposition parties was not on the accountability laws, but the opposition was concerned that the passage of these bills would result in an attack on civil liberties.

“Out of 13 FATF-related bills, the other bills were about amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Evacuee Properties and Cooperative Societies Act. The bills related to amendments to the Evacuee Properties and Cooperative Societies Act had almost been settled, but there was a stalemate on AMLA and CrPC’s amendment bills,” it reported.

However, PM Imran linked this resistance by the opposition to their alleged corrupt practices. Irked by the continuous rejection of proposed legislation, Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at the opposition parties, saying that the opposition’s interests and the country’s interests are ‘divergent’.

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