Pakistan is a test case for the fairness of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as the country has met almost all the requirements to exit the grey list, the country’s law minister said.
Farogh Naseem, who has been Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Law and Justice since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party took power in 2018, said the international watchdog needs to apply laws to all countries without any prejudice.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of an event in Istanbul, Naseem proposed the establishment of a joint legal forum between Pakistan and Turkey besides intern exchange programs and the sharing of experiences between lawyer communities of the two countries.
He said Pakistani and Turkish lawyers are “capable of fighting their own cases at all forums.”
In a conversation with a group of Turkish lawyers hosted by 2nd number Bar Association of Istanbul in honor of Pakistan Law and Justice minister, Naseem said former judges and lawyers of the two countries could come together and the two countries could together fight cases of a commercial nature in the international arena.
Referring to illegal immigration to Turkey, he said officials from Pakistan and Turkey were “working on a daily basis to cease this problem.”
Naseem also discussed what he called the “transformation taking place in Pakistan” with regard to the delivery of justice after new laws were brought in by his ministry.
Pakistan is test case for FATF’s fairness: “Even the FATF people are good people. I'm not being critical against them…But as long as these (FATF) standards are universally applied, and not applied to only Pakistan, Law minister https://t.co/oa7a0CQP20
— Islamuddin Sajid (@islamudinsajid) October 12, 2021
His ministry has proposed around 650 amendments to the Pakistan National Assembly to make the dispensation of justice “fast and durable.”
Highlights of interview
Naseem said Pakistan has done “everything” to get off FATF’s grey list.
“Out of I think 27 points, we have reached the 26th score,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“Even the FATF people are good people. I’m not being critical against them…But as long as these (FATF) standards are universally applied, and not applied to only Pakistan, and as long as there is no international politics, then we welcome FATF. Let it be applied to everyone,” he said, questioning why Pakistan was still on the list.
“There should be no international politics, but FATF is being used to arm twist. Then what can we say?”
The France-based FATF, founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7, an organization of the world’s seven largest advanced countries, monitors countries’ money flow and penalizes those whose financial systems are abused for money laundering and terrorism activities.
Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018 for alleged deficiencies in its counter-terror financing and anti-money laundering regimes.
However, FATF has acknowledged that Pakistan has made “progress.”
“I think we have met all objectives. At the (FATF) October session, Pakistan is going to give a very good roundup of whatever it has done,” Naseem said.
“I’m very hopeful,” he said when asked whether Pakistan will exit the list.
He said the Pakistani case was “actually a test of FATF’s fairness.”
“And I’d like to believe it’s a fair system. These international standards should be applied everywhere to every country.”
Naseem said Pakistan was “grateful to Turkish brothers” for their support at the FATF besides China.
Pakistan witnessing transformation in justice system
Touching on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s struggle for a country where the dispensation of justice is “fast and durable,” Naseem said with Khan’s government in power for three years, “this transformation has already started.”
“We have made a new law, the inheritance law, and it takes 15 days for the succession certificate or the letter of administration to be issued,” the minister said.
He said earlier that it would “take four to seven years for a court to decide” about the letter of administration or a succession certificate.
Letter of Administration or succession certificate is an official document that grant an individual permission to access and manage property after someone dies.
“Then we made an attempt with the Civil Procedure Court. As you know that in India and Pakistan, it takes about 20 to 30 years before any civil dispute is settled. The problem is not just in Pakistan, but in many other countries. So what we did is that we made amendments, and those amendments ensure that a civil case would be tried within one year. It is working in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Punjab, there is a little problem,” he added.
The minister said Pakistan is also working on women’s empowerment laws, calling it “a very big step.”
He said women, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, can file a case with regard to property rights with female ombudsmen, who are “available all over Pakistan.”
“Those women ombudsmen would decide their cases in between three to six months. So again, a great expedition (of case disposal) is available as far as that is concerned.”
Naseem said many amendments have been brought to “revamp the criminal justice system of Pakistan.”
“We have proposed about 650 amendments, and I think it’ll take a few months before they are passed by the National Assembly and the Senate,” he said.
“Once it is done, a criminal trial, which takes years, will finish in nine months. These are matters which are not transformed in two or three years,” he said, citing the UK as an example, where civil law reforms took about 20 years.
Naseem claimed that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government developed these reforms in “record time.”
“But it will take a little time for the courts and the lawyers and the litigants to adjust with these reforms. But I’m very hopeful,” said Naseem.
“We have reformed and revamped the complete criminal justice system,” he said, adding Pakistani society was an “over-litigated society” with cases of all nature.
“The law ministry or the law department of the federal government can only attempt to legislate laws. The parliament can pass them. But the courts will have to really push amendments. They will have to really finish trials within the given period. Our judges have done very well. I am not being critical against them. But it is the judges, the lawyers, the litigants, the legislature, the executive…All will have to get their act together,” he said.
He also urged people to “speak the truth at all costs.”
“The systems in terms of legal reforms are pretty stringent. And if they are properly implemented, you’ll be surprised how effectively these laws will work and revamp the system,” he said.
On the issue of an anti-blasphemy law in the country, the Naseem said: “I need to make clear: for the Pakistani government, Prime Minister Imran Khan and myself, we are in no mood to undo or repeal the blasphemy laws. We will not do it. We will not repeal the blasphemy laws. Yes, if there is abuse in the system, then abuses are to be pointed out.”
He added that in three years of Khan’s government, there have been “hardly any FIRs (first information reports) or challans (charge-sheet) produced in blasphemy cases” in Pakistan.
However, pointing to criticism by Western capitals against this law in Pakistan, he questioned the silence of these countries over Kashmir.
“Why aren’t they talking about the human rights abuses in Kashmir? Why aren’t they saying something about blatant human rights abuse by India in Kashmir? Why not a single word?” he said, even asking why India was not under the radar of FATF.
Pakistan is a responsible state
Naseem said Pakistan was a “responsible state” when asked about the review of a case pertaining to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an alleged Indian spy who is in Pakistani custody.
“Pakistan is a responsible state. Pakistan is a party to the Vienna Convention. So if it is a party to the Vienna Convention, it means that the International Court of Justice [ICJ] would have jurisdiction with regard to any issues of consular access,” the minister said regarding the case of Jadhav, who was arrested by the Pakistani military in early 2016 and was sentenced to death a year later for alleged “subversive activities against Pakistan.”
India soon took the case to the ICJ. Islamabad claims Jadhav is a serving Indian naval commander.
“With regard to Jadhav, India lost the main case. Because the main prayer (submission) made by India (before the ICJ) was that he should be released…that he should be acquitted and released,” he said.
“(But) that prayer was dismissed by the ICJ. It is only this tiny part of the case that went against Pakistan, and that is with regard to consular access. And we have given him the consular access not once, but many times. And we’ve not only done that; we’ve complied with the ICJ’s judgments by legislating an effective review and reconsideration law,” Naseem said.
Pakistan allowed Jadhav to meet with his mother and wife in December 2017 followed by consular access to Indian diplomats posted in Islamabad.
“That effective review and reconsideration law gives Jadhav the right to file a case in the Pakistani high courts and the Pakistani high courts are now possessed with such a law and the case. They are in the process of deciding, in terms of the directions which had been given by the ICJ, which is that there should be a review and reconsideration mechanism and that has been done,” he added.
Onus on United Nations to act on Kashmir
On the way forward on the Kashmir dispute resolution, the Pakistani law minister put the onus on the UN.
“Pakistan will not undo the Shimla Agreement,” he said when asked about India scrapping the semi-autonomous status of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir territory in 2019.
“Pakistan believes in the various resolutions which have been passed by the United Nations Security Council [on Kashmir]. Pakistan is a responsible state, unlike India, which is a rogue state. India has violated the Shimla pact and the United Nations Security Council resolutions blatantly, and therefore, it is the responsibility of the United Nations to take action,” Naseem said.
On Aug. 5, 2019, India revoked special provisions granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution.
The move invited a sharp reaction from Pakistan and other nations, including Turkey, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“It is more than Pakistan’s problem. It is now the writ of the United Nations which is at stake. The United Nations cannot see that its writ has been completely tarnished by the Indian government. There is a problem with regard to the functioning of the United Nations, and the United Nations will have to really take this up,” he added.
Following India’s Aug. 5 move, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had said: “The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and applicable Security Council resolutions.”
“Pakistan will keep on supporting the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir,” Naseem said.
He said India had not “only violated its own constitutional basic structure, but also the United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
“These Security Council resolutions have been passed by the United Nations. They bind both Pakistan and India that with regard to the territories, which are under your administrative control, you will take no further action,” he said.
In view of India’s Aug. 5, 2019 move on Kashmir, Naseem noted that “it is a test for the United Nations more than anything else.”
He added that Pakistan’s position remains the same “which means that there has to be a plebiscite and the people of Kashmir will have to decide as to what they choose.”
“So until such a time that is done, there is a patent violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions by India,” he said, thanking Turkey for its support on Kashmir.
Naseem said Islamabad has invited international journalists to visit both countries — Pakistan and India.
“We allow our security staff to take them to the Azad Kashmir area, and they are very happy to report that there is no abuse, whereas the Indian government does not let them go [to Kashmir],” he claimed.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk