ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Thursday agreed to replace the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with a National Accountability Commission (NAC), with a view to making the new commission more powerful and uncontroversial.
The third meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on a National Accountability Law, chaired by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, agreed that controversial provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) — such as plea bargain and voluntary returns (VR) — will not be incorporated in the commission.
The committee also agreed that the term of the NAC chairman will be three years, instead of four-year tenure enjoyed by the NAB chairman.
It has also been decided that NAC cases will not only be tried in accountability courts, but also before district and sessions courts as well.
“The committee agreed to replace NAB with the proposed NAC,” the law minister told reporters after conclusion of the in-camera meeting in Parliament House.
Parliamentary body seeks mandate to prosecute judges, army officers under new law
The minister said it had also been decided that there should be an Accountability Investigation Agency (AIA) to probe instances of white-collar crime. The agency will work under the NAC, he said.
“Suggestions have been sought from the members of the committee regarding scope of investigation of the NAC,” Mr Hamid said.
He said the next meeting would discuss the definition of corruption and corrupt practices. “It is possible there will be some changes in these definitions,” he added.
A member of the committee told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the body reviewed the accountability laws of some other countries, including Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.
In a meeting held on Jan 17, some members of the committee had demanded across-the-board accountability to bring army generals and judges under the umbrella of civil anti-corruption bodies. “A decision in this regard will be taken in the next meeting,” he said.
Presently, judges and army generals do not come within the purview of NAB and other civilian anti-corruption bodies, since both institutions have their own internal accountability systems.
The committee also agreed that like politicians, bureaucrats should have to declare their assets every year so that corruption committed by civil servants could be exposed.
The plea bargain and voluntary return provisions in the NAB ordinance, as well as the recent case of former finance secretary of Balochistan Mushtaq Raisani were also discussed.
National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq formed a 20-member parliamentary committee on the National Accountability Law on Jan 5 to amend controversial NAB laws.
The committee has been given three months to prepare and present its report to the speaker regarding the necessary amendments in the NAO, 1999.
Although the government recently promulgated an ordinance and made some amendments to the NAB Ordinance, squeezing the powers of the chairman to approve deals, the Senate struck down the ordinance last week and termed these amendments as being “against basic human rights”.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2017