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KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly is all set to revive the applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, better known as the NAB law, in the province and the law department is currently working on a draft law, it emerged on Tuesday.

Only on Monday, Sindh Advocate General Zamir Ghumro had informed the Sindh High Court that the provincial government was in the process of reviewing the law — National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Bill, 2017 — it had passed around six weeks ago.

A few days ago, former president Asif Ali Zardari had directed Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to reconsider the law that repealed the applicability of the NAB law in the province.

He asked the CM to bring a new anti-graft law in consonance with the laws prevailing in other provinces.

Mr Zardari himself was recently acquitted by an accountability court in the last graft reference against him. However, his fate still hangs in the balance as NAB had filed an appeal in the high court against his acquittal.

In Sindh, NAB is presently probing corruption charges against over 60 bureaucrats and politicians including Law Minister Ziaul Hassan Lanjar, MPAs Faqir Dad Khoso, Sharmila Farooqi, Sharjeel Memon, former chief secretary Siddiq Memon, Aijaz Chaudhry, former member Board of Revenue Shazar Shamoon, secretary Badar Jameel, Ali Ahmed Lund, managing director water board Hashim Raza Zaidi, former education minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, MNA Mir Munawar Talpur, MPA Ali Mardan Shah, former administrator Karachi Rauf Akhter, and former chairman Inter board Anwar Zai.

Sources said in the wake of Mr Zardari’s directive a meeting of the provincial cabinet would take place before the upcoming session of the Sindh Assembly to discuss, and approve, the draft law.

They said that if all went well the applicability of the NAB law would be revived in the province by the assembly anytime next week.

On the pattern of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, both NAB and the newly established Sindh Accountability Agency would run parallel and take action against the provincial employees.

In KP, the PTI government established its own provincial Ehtesab Commission, but did not repeal the applicability of the NAB law in the province.

The NAB law was repealed by the Sindh Assembly recently on the assertion of the law minister and AG that after 18th amendment to the Constitution anti-corruption was a provincial subject and NAB, which is a federal body, had no role or jurisdiction in the provincial departments or institutions.

After the bill was passed in the first week of July, Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair had refused to sign it and sent it back with objections.

The Sindh cabinet then discussed the observations of the governor and unanimously approved to go ahead with the same legislation. The law was again passed by the assembly on July 27.

But the governor did not give his assent the second time either. Law Minister Lanjar, however, said that under Article 116 (3), a bill “automatically becomes an act” if the governor fails to give his assent the second time within 10 days.

After enactment of the law, NAB can only act against the employees of the federal government in Sindh, but not take any action against those employed with the provincial government.

After the law was passed, the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had challenged it in the SHC.

The opposition announced a campaign against it saying the “PPP is trying to defend its corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and therefore it repealed the NAB law in Sindh”.

“The NAO is protected by Article 270 of the Constitution and the Sindh Assembly cannot repeal NAB’s powers as it is an independent authority,” Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hasan had said.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017