ISLAMABAD: Expressing dis­appoin­t­ment over the present accountability system, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has suggested formation of an independent and powerful commission to carry out accountability in a judicious and transparent manner, saying that any attempt to amend the existing system in patchworks will not serve the purpose.

Mr Rabbani suggested that all the existing institutions, including the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), should be made answerable to a proposed 12-member “federal commission for accountability”.

The Senate chairman made the suggestion in a six-page “open letter in the name of the public”, which was released to the media on Friday.

“I am using this tool of communication, which is not very common, due to the constraints of my constitutional office,” Mr Rabbani said in the letter, adding that “this has been necessitated as the current system has failed to curb the menace of corruption and threatens democratic polity and harmonisation of our society”.

The proposed commission, according to Raza Rabbani, should have enough powers to make every citizen accountable, including those belonging to the judiciary and the armed forces.

“Creation of a statutory and independent body to oversee all aspects of corruption, with no group or entity outside its ambit, is need of the hour,” he wrote.

The creation of such an entity would also mean that the overlap in mandates of several agencies could be rationalised.

The proposal from the Senate chairman has come just a few days after the NAB’s recent controversial decision of giving a clean chit to a Balochistan bureaucrat after striking a plea bargain deal with him.

The decision received widespread criticism and even Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the bureau’s chief should be from the judiciary.

VICTIMISATION: Giving a background of the legislation carried out against corruption in the country, Mr Rabbani stated that the country had six anti-corruption agencies — two at the federal and four at the provincial level. Moreover, there were two sets of courts, namely accountability courts and provincial special anti-corruption courts.

Mr Rabbani, in his letter, said that since accountability agencies were under the government, these were being used for political victimisation.

The 12-member commission proposed by Mr Rabbani will have as its members a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, to be nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP); a member from the armed forces not below the rank of lieutenant general, to be nominated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the most senior serving Grade-22 officer as a representative of the civil services; one member from the police and civil armed forces, to be nominated by the ministry of interior; one member each to represent bar associations, human rights activists, journalists and professionals, to be nominated by the Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker and the CJP; and four members of parliament — two each from the two houses and representing the treasury and the opposition in equal numbers.

The commission’s chairman, to be elected by the members, will have a three-year term.

“There shall be a bar on members of parliament and members of the armed forces becoming the chairman of the commission,” Mr Rabbani suggested.

The Senate chairman said the present forums for disciplinary action and other related matters for persons belonging to the judiciary, the armed forces and bureaucracy would stay even after formation of the federal commission for accountability (FCA). Cases approved for reference as well as closure of investigation by NAB shall be placed before the FCA for a final decision.

NAB shall take preliminary decision about a reference within 30 days of receipt of the case, failing which the case shall be deemed to have been transferred to the proposed commission.

The commission shall have jurisdiction with respect to public office holders; persons in the service of Pakistan; judiciary (matters of corruption and corrupt practices to be taken up by the commission and other matters to be taken up by the Supreme Judicial Council); the armed forces (matters of corruption and corrupt practices to be taken up by the commission and all other matters to be dealt with under the relevant laws); any other person (body, corporate, entities, firms, etc).

Mr Rabbani wants NAB to function as a fully independent and autonomous body, but under the supervision of the FCA. The accountability courts, according to him, should be under the administrative control of the Supreme Court.

He says that a parliamentary committee would be constituted to draft legislative bills and oversee their implementation with respect to the establishment of the commission and suggest amendments to the NAB Ordinance and the FIA Act 1974.

Published in Dawn December 31st, 2016