ISLAMABAD: A committee tasked with overhauling the accountability law is undecided whether or not to bring judges and generals under the ambit of the proposed law.

Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, who is the chairman of the parliamentary panel examining the proposed legislation, on Friday said the matter related to trying the judiciary and armed forces personnel under the new accountability law would be discussed after reaching an agreement on other clauses of the National Accountability Commission Act 2017. The new Act is aimed at replacing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with the National Accountability Commission (NAC).

Sources in the committee told Dawn that the committee was ‘under pressure’ on the crucial issue of bringing the powerful institutions under the new law.

But the sources said it was not easy for the committee to bring judges and generals under the ambit of the accountability law.

Parliamentary body is examining National Accountability Commission Act 2017, which will replace NAB with National Accountability Commission

The existing National Accountability Ordinance, promulgated by military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, brought public officeholders, civil servants, politicians and even civilians under the law but exempted the personnel of armed forces as well as judges of superior courts.

However, there are also legal complications due to which the committee is undecided on applying the law on judges and the military persons.

Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif, a member of the committee, told Dawn that though there was a consensus among members to bring both the categories under the law, the committee would have to consider certain legal issues as well.

He said the Pakistan Army Act 1952 also deals with charges of corruption and corrupt practices in the military. The judges of the superior judiciary may face trial under Article 209 of the Constitution.

Laws already exist for the accountability of military personnel as well as the judges of superior courts, he added.

Barrister Saif said the committee had to examine the existing laws of the two institutions before applying the NAC on them.

During its Friday meeting, the committee discussed Section 24-28 of the proposed law.

These sections are related to the application of the code on an accused person, special rules of evidence, tender of pardon to an accused, treating the suspect as a witness and absconders.

Mr Hamid said the committee had agreed on the proposed sections. The committee also discussed the procedure for allowing an accused to turn an approver.

Section 26 of the proposed NAC says, “Any person supposed to have been directly or indirectly concerned in or privy to any offence, tender a full or conditional pardon to such a person on condition of his making a full and true disclosure of the whole of the circumstances within his knowledge relating to the said offence.”

He said he members of the committee were of the view that in case the trial lingered, the approver might be granted bail without the wastage of time.

The committee also agreed to award three-year imprisonment to a person for absconding during the trial proceedings, the minister said.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2017