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KARACHI: The Sindh government on Thursday directed its departments and institutions not to provide any government record to the National Accountability Bureau for initiating any new case or inquiry.

The provincial chief law officer, Advocate General Zamir Ghumro, wrote a letter to the chief secretary and law and parliamentary affairs secretary stating that “as per provision of National Accountability Ordinance, Sindh Repeal Act, 2017, the NAB Ordinance stands repealed and NAB can’t initiate new cases or inquiries against the provincial government departments or provincial office holders”.

The AG asked the law secretary to communicate to all provincial government departments and institutions that the new act could neither be suspended under the law, nor was it suspended by the Sindh High Court.

He said that the SHC order was to the extent of the pending proceedings so new or fresh cases could not be initiated by NAB, nor could the record of government or communications be provided to the NAB authorities.

According to the letter, all departments of the Sindh government may cooperate with NAB regarding pending inquiries and investigations, but no government record could be provided to initiate new cases or inquiries as the Sindh Repeal Act is a valid law and very much in the field.

It was also stated in the letter that no notices could be issued by the NAB for initiating any fresh inquiry or investigation as per provisions of the act.

The AG also said that a wrong impression was created in a section of print and electronic media regarding the SHC’s Wednesday order as if the new law was suspended by the court.

AG Ghumro said: “The order has not suspended the National Accountability Ordinance Sindh Repeal Act, 2017. It is very much in the field. However, the Honourable Court has only ordered that pending inquiries and investigation may be continued by NAB and pending reference may also be proceed by Accountability Courts established under National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.”

Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh, the bench had on Wednesday directed NAB to proceed with the inquiries and investigations pending before it till further orders.

The bench had also directed the accountability courts to continue proceeding with NAB references pending disposal before them.

The bench was hearing a set of petitions against the new provincial law that repeals applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), better known as the NAB Ordinance, to Sindh.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as well as civil rights campaigners filed petitions in the SHC against the law.

In a major policy decision, the provincial government last month tabled the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Bill, 2017 in the provincial assembly to repeal the applicability of the NAB Ordinance to the province. Taking advantage of its numerical strength in the assembly, the ruling PPP managed to get the bill passed, which repealed the applicability of the NAB Ordinance to departments and autonomous bodies controlled by the provincial government. It also approved establishment of a provincial accountability agency to replace the Anti-Corruption Establishment.

According to the petitioners, the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Act, 2017 is an attempt by the PPP, the ruling party in the province, to “protect its corruption”. They claim that the law is against the basic scheme of the Constitution.

Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair had refused to sign the bill and sent it back to the provincial government with objections after it was first approved by the assembly on July 3. Later on July 27, the assembly passed a new draft bill after the Sindh cabinet discussed observations of the governor. However, the governor did not give his assent the second time either.

Under the new law, the Sindh government will establish accountability courts in the province, each of which will be headed by a district and sessions judge (DJ) or a person qualified to be appointed as DJ.

An accountability commission will also be set up which will comprise chairman, director general and director-investigation of the agency and the provincial advocate general and prosecutor general. The agency will review progress of corruption cases and recommend measures for eradication of corruption.

A week earlier in a letter to the provincial departments, commissioners and deputy commissioners, the Sindh government stated that with the revocation of the NAB Ordinance, all corruption cases, inquiries and complaints would now be probed by the provincial Anti-Corruption Establishment.

The letter said with the new law in effect, NAB would now have no role in the province and would investigate cases related to federal institutions only.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017