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KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Friday took into confidence leaders of the opposition parliamentary parties in the Sindh Assembly over the proposed Sindh Accountability Bill, 2017, which is likely to be tabled in the Sindh Assembly during its session beginning next week.

The new bill has been prepared to replace the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Bill, 2017. The said bill was passed by the Sindh Assembly amidst severe protest from the opposition on July 3, but Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair returned it to the house without giving his assent, requesting for its reconsideration.

Against this backdrop, the CM convened the meeting to take the opposition parties into confidence on the draft of the new bill.

The combined opposition will not support the bill

The meeting was attended by Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hasan along with parliamentary party leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Syed Sardar Ahmad; Nand Kumar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Haji Shafi Jamote of the PML-N. The parliamentary party leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Samar Ali Khan, was out of the country thus unable to attend the meeting.

The CM was assisted by Transport and Information Minister Syed Nasir Shah, Law Minister Ziaul Hassan Lanjar and Advocate General Zamir Ghumro.

Briefing the leaders of opposition parties on the need to have a provincial accountability law, the CM said that he and his legal team believed that the “measures to curb corruption” were a provincial subject right from the date of enforcement of the 18th Amendment.

“We are late by a few years but now we have decided to introduce the draft accountability bill in the assembly on Monday,” he said. “Under the proposed accountability law, the appointment of chairman would be made through the provincial assembly while the director general and prosecutor general, the two other important positions, would be made in consultation with the chairman.”

AG Ghumro pointed out that there would be no clause for plea bargain in the new bill.

Mr Lanjar said that the draft bill was being finalised and he would provide the opposition leaders its copies if they wanted.

Khwaja Izhar told the meeting that the joint opposition was against the provincial accountability law and they would oppose the bill when tabled in the assembly.

The CM said it was their democratic right to oppose or support the bill. “I have not bothered you to come around [to] our view but the purpose of convening this meeting is to take you [opposition] into confidence on the proposed bill,” he concluded.

After the meeting, Khwaja Izhar told the media that the opposition made it clear to the CM that it would oppose the new bill openly “because its spirit is against the Constitution”.

“You are introducing the new law of accountability only because your 200 to 250 persons are facing corruption cases in the National Accountability Bureau,” he quipped.

He said it was beyond comprehension how it would be possible for subordinate officials to carry out accountability as the chairman of the proposed body would be appointed by the CM. “By repealing the federal law you are weakening the system of accountability.”

Sardar Ahmad of the MQM said that under Article 142 of the Constitution the laws which fell under the Concurrent List — like the Criminal Procedure Code, law of evidence etc — a province could not make its own laws.

Nand Kumar of the PML-F said that the meeting lasted for two hours but the draft bill was not presented in it. “We will not only oppose the bill in the assembly but if it is bulldozed the opposition ... would challenge the law in court.”

Mr Jamote also termed the proposed law against the spirit of the Constitution and said they would oppose it.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2017