The Parliamentary Committee on National Accountability Laws unanimously agreed on Wednesday that members of the judiciary and military need not be held accountable under the new proposed accountability law, said Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shireen Mazari said all parties had agreed on the move as both institutions had their own systems for dispensing justice to their members.
The accountability law aimed at leaving no ‘sacred cows’ untouched ─ that has spent over a year on the drawing board ─ was intended to ensure across-the-board accountability and bring judges and generals within the purview of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
However, earlier in October, the PTI and Muttahida Qaumi Movement frustrated the nearly year-long process of drafting legislation with a U-turn during the 13th meeting of the committee, shattering the consensus built around the nearly finalised bill.
MQM members had rejected the draft bill outright, while Mazari was of the view that the PTI would come up with its own recommendations for across-the-board accountability.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar — who had presented the proposal regarding the inclusion of judges and generals in the definition of the term ‘public office-holder’ — had said that both parties had blocked the smooth passage of legislation that was meant to bring ‘sacred cows’ under the ambit of accountability laws.
However, the PPP retracted its suggestion of accountability for judges and generals today.
The existing National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf, brought public office-holders, civil servants, politicians and even civilians under the ambit of the law, but exempted armed forces personnel as well as judges of the superior courts.
All parties have now agreed to leave members of the judiciary and military out of the process of accountability under the new legislation.
The new legislation proposes that all existing inquiries and petitions be transferred to the National Accountability Commission (NAC) or the new courts, and will not be terminated, the law minister said.
The NAO is very harsh, Hamid said, adding that parliamentarians wanted a just new law that held people accountable.
The PTI, however, were against the formation of the NAC, he claimed.
Amendments to the law proposed by the PTI show that it is against naming the new law the National Accountability Commission Bill, 2017, and instead wish for it to be called the National Accountability Bureau Bill, 2017.
The Jamaat-i-Islami rejected the NAC, with JI Senator Tariqullah saying the party wished for improvements in the existing law.
The party also submitted its recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee.
PTI stages walkout
The PTI staged a walkout of the committee's 16th meeting today, with Mazari saying the government was not ready to listen to the party's demands.
"We walked out of the meeting because of the government's behaviour," Mazari said.
"The Parliamentary Committee meeting is not a classroom where we need to raise our hands and ask for permission to speak," the PTI's chief whip in the National Assembly said.
She said the PTI would take their recommendations for the accountability commission to the parliament.
"There should be no differences regarding the appointment of the head of the commission," she said.