ISLAMABAD: The government is working on a draft bill to replace the presidential ordinance that banned Jamaatud Dawa as well as other organisations and individuals on the watch list of the interior ministry.
Official in the law ministry told media that the proposed draft bill to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 was likely to be tabled in the upcoming session of the National Assembly scheduled to commence on April 9 (tomorrow). The law ministry was involved in the process for the purpose of vetting the proposed draft bill, the sources said, adding that the military establishment was also on board.
The government decided to prepare a draft bill to amend the ATA as part of its damage-control campaign after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) approved a nomination proposal tabled jointly by the US, the UK, France and Germany to place Pakistan on the international watchdog’s money-laundering and terror-financing grey list in February.
Earlier, President Mamnoon Hussain had promulgated the ordinance amending the ATA to include entities listed by the UNSC as proscribed groups. The ordinance had been issued under Article 89 of the Constitution which empowers “President to promulgate ordinances” but the ordinance expires in 120 days. The National Assembly can extend it for another four months after which it has to be tabled before both the houses i.e. National Assembly and Senate for further extension.
Through the ordinance, amendments were made to ATA’s Section 11-B that sets out parameters for proscription of groups and Section 11-EE that describes the grounds for listing of individuals. In both sections, Sub-Section ‘aa’ was added. According to the sub-section, organisations and individuals “listed under the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1948 (XIV of 1948), or” will be included in the First Schedule (for organisations) and Fourth Schedule (for individuals), respectively, on an ex parte basis.
Under Section 11-EE, the requirements were: “(a) concerned in terrorism; (b) an activist, office-bearer or an associate of an organisation kept under observation under section 11D or proscribed under section 11B; and (c) in any way concerned or suspected to be concerned with such organisation or affiliated with any group or organisation suspected to be involved in terrorism or sectarianism or acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, any person or organisation proscribed under this Act.”
Database being prepared
In addition to the draft bill, which is likely to be tabled in the upcoming NA session, Pakistan is preparing a consolidated database of known terrorists and terrorist organisations which will be accessible to financial institutions and law-enforcement agencies of the country to strengthen the regime against money laundering and terror financing.
For the enforcement of prohibition of funds and financial services, it was recommended to the authorities to ensure that statutory regulatory orders issued under UNSC Resolutions-1267 and -1373 (issued under ATA) are implemented without delay. The government would also frame the ATA’s freezing and seizure rules and ensure that Anti-Terrorism Amendment Ordinance 2018 is enacted through the parliament, according to the draft action plan.
The amendment to the ATA would also enable investigation officers to be trained to investigate sources of funding besides other financial aspects in terrorism cases.
The presidential ordinance has already been challenged by JuD chief Hafiz Saeed in the Islamabad High Court. He claimed that the ordinance had been promulgated due to external pressure and hence was not only prejudicial to the sovereignty but also contradictory to the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
When contacted, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, special assistant to the prime minister, said that the amendment to the ATA was a subject of the interior ministry. He added the law would not introduce anything new, as it would basically ensure compliance to the UNSC Resolutions.