ISLAMABAD: Following in the footsteps of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has also rejected the almost finalised National Accountability Commission (NAC) bill that suggests bringing generals and judges under the accountability net.

The JI rejected the NAC bill which was prepared to replace the controversial National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, in the 15th meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Laws held at the Parliament House on Tuesday.

The meeting was presided over by Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

The PTI and MQM had already rejected the bill in the 13th meeting of the committee held on Oct 11. The PTI raised eight objections on the bill.

Interestingly, all the three parties — PTI, MQM and JI — had not raised any objection to the bill during previous 12 meetings of the committee. The JI even remained silent during the last 14 meetings.

PTI, MQM have already opposed National Accountability Commission bill

The meeting on Tuesday lasted for hardly 15 minutes as the committee was expecting that the PTI would present its objections in the shape of amendments and then they would be discussed by the committee members. However, the PTI could not come up with amendments it wanted in the bill.

The JI’s parliamentary leader, Sahibzada Tariq Ullah, informed the committee that his party had rejected the bill because it thought that there were some flaws in it and that it did not have the requirements needed for developing a better accountability system in the country. “Accountability laws should be improved,” he said.

Talking to reporters after the in-camera meeting, the law minister said that no significant progress was made during Tuesday’s meeting, adding the next meeting of the committee would be held on Nov 1.

He said the PTI had to present some amendments in the NAC bill but the party could not come up with the same. The PTI’s representative had been asked to bring the amendments in the next meeting of the committee, he added.

Before the 13th meeting of the committee, all parliamentary parties had agreed on the proposal for across-the-board accountability bringing generals and judges within the purview of NAB. But the PTI and MQM suddenly took a U-turn shattering the hope for the approval of the almost finalised bill.

Sources close to the law minister said that the government wanted to get approved the bill by the committee and later by the Senate and National Assembly with consensus.

They said even after the opposition of the bill by the PTI, MQM and JI the government could get approved the bill not only by the committee but also by the two houses of parliament. But, they added, it might provide an opportunity to opposition parties to take to the streets for agitation.

In the 12th meeting of the committee, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party — who introduced the proposal to bring generals and judges under the accountability net — had softened the language of the bill regarding judges and generals by calling them public office-holders. He presented a new definition of public office-holders that “anybody who gets financial benefits from the national exchequer falls in the category of public office holder”.

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

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017