After weeks of deadlock, indecision and bickering, the Parliament on Wednesday managed to pass eight important bills, including three related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

While three bills related to FATF were finally passed, not all is rosy in the parliament. The opposition challenged the count done by the NA staff on the first bill, held that the bill was void because Dr Babar Awan, an adviser to the prime minister who presented the bill, did not have authority. Upon the Speaker’s refusal to accommodate the objection, the opposition protested noisily, tore copies of the bill and staged a boycott of the proceedings of the joint sitting. Thus, most of the laws related to FATF, like several clauses of the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, were passed with a voice vote without any opposition.

Thus, while this was some progress, FATF-related bills being passed without any oversight is not an ideal situation. A better approach would be for the government and opposition to deliberate in special committees, without these theatrics. The disagreements over special clauses in the legislation are not unresolvable—the government has already conceded somewhat by shifting the problematic clause on techniques of surveillances to investigate offences of money laundering, from the Anti-Money Laundering Bill-2020 to the Anti-Terrorism Act. This is a better position since actions defined as terrorist acts can be tried under the ATA. Yet it is understandable why the opposition is still hesitant, since the definition of terrorism is vague and often times even petty crimes are tried under ATA courts.

There is a middle ground even if both sides choose not to see it. The government needs to go beyond the ATA and allow only very special circumstances, related exclusively to terrorism and national security, where these controversial techniques would be used. Legal oversight over surveillance and filing petitions of probable cause—which would need for law enforcement to carry out preliminary investigations and give reasons for surveillance—can work.