The Senate committee on finance seems to have worked strenuously to defang the legislation before waving it through
It appeared to be nothing but a calculated bid to placate an irate business lobby and powerful politicians when a Senate panel cleared a much diluted version of the Anti-money Laundering (AML) Bill after months of foot-dragging. The piece of legislation, designed to grapple with a plethora of fiscal crimes, in its original draft is thought to have had more teeth than was politically palatable. The Senate committee on finance seems to have worked strenuously to defang the legislation before waving it through. As we noted in this space earlier this week, the opposition, which at present commands majority in the upper house of parliament, was not willing to pass the Bill in its original form because of its apprehensions that it would be misused by revenue collectors to harass politicians and big business. The opposition was, in specific terms, opposed to the inclusion of some provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance within the scope of the AML Act.
As it turns out, the Senate panel has accommodated its wishes in full by jettisoning income tax fraud from the purview of the Act. In a country where tax evasion is a norm, not an exception, the need to tighten screws on tax dodgers can hardly be over-emphasised. The bloated informal economy, buttressed as it is by tax thievery, tends to promote other fiscal offences as well, money laundering and terror financing being the most notable. A stringent law striking at the roots of these offences is the need of the hour, but in this particular case lawmakers appear to have opted for a lax law, not bringing the fiscal felons to book. In the backdrop of the country’s security environment, where hardcore militants are bent on using every avenue to finance their murderous operations, it is all the more necessary to close all loopholes in the law addressing fiscal crime. Terror groups use money-laundering channels to buy weapons and create chaos in society. It is in the best interest of the country that its law-enforcement apparatus is backed by a tough anti-money laundering law that gives no leeway to militants, crooked felons or businessmen to get away with untaxed, illicit cash.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.
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