THE PPP government in Sindh is apparently backpedalling, albeit tentatively, on a law it had recently enacted and defended vociferously as being in the interest of ‘true’ accountability. Designed to do away with NAB’s jurisdiction in Sindh, the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 Sindh Repeal Bill was bulldozed through by the PPP legislators in the provincial assembly on July 3 amidst noisy protests from the opposition. The party’s majority in the legislature meant that it could enact the legislation despite the Sindh governor’s refusal to assent to it. Nevertheless the pressure has been mounting, with various political parties and NGOs filing petitions against the move. On Monday, at the beginning of a hearing into these petitions, the PPP government informed the Sindh High Court that it would review the law.
Notwithstanding its claims that the NAB Ordinance was a ‘black’ law that disproportionately targeted the PPP, the Sindh government’s move smacked of naked self-interest and self-preservation. Its very timing was suspect, coming as it did a few days after NAB announced it was expanding the scope of its investigation into alleged corruption in various departments of Sindh. Not only that, but the assembly session in which the bill was passed was hastily summoned a month in advance of when it was due. However, with the recent judgement in the provincial IG’s case going against it, the past few days have demonstrated to the PPP that a majority in the assembly does not always translate into a carte blanche and that it may be on shaky ground in this case as well. The PPP may have objections to the NAB law as it is being applied in Sindh, but it would have been more credible to suggest improvements in its working rather than moving to replace it with rubber-stamp bodies that would do the government’s bidding. With its reputation for governance and fiscal probity in tatters, the Sindh government does not have many takers for its plaint of victimisation in the name of accountability.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017