ISLAMABAD: All parties reached a consensus decision at the 16th meeting of the parliamentary committee on NAB laws on Wednesday that generals and judges would not come under the purview of accountability laws.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) not only opposed the idea of bringing the generals and judges under the ambit of the proposed National Accountability Commission (NAC), but also rejected the basic gist of the NAC Bill 2017. The party said the National Accountability Bureau should continue to work instead of being replaced by NAC.

Earlier, the PTI, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) had raised objections to the NAC bill, apparently to block the way of any legislation for accountability of the generals and judges.

But on Thursday, the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which was one of the staunch advocates of the proposal, took a U-turn and agreed that the judges and generals would not be treated under accountability laws.

Interestingly, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has been criticising the judiciary and the military establishment for what it called ousting Nawaz Sharif from the office of prime minister, suddenly changed its stance and also rejected the PPP’s proposal.

Consensus reached at 16th meeting of parliamentary panel; PPP takes a U-turn, withdraws proposal

“All parliamentary parties have decided that judges and generals will not come under the ambit of NAC,” Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who is also chairman of the committee, told reporters after the meeting at Parliament House.

He said all parties had rejected the proposal of PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar to bring the judges and generals under accountability laws. The PPP, he said, had withdrawn the proposal.

Interestingly, the PPP withdrew the proposal at the 16th meeting of the committee when its mover Senator Babar was absent and Naveed Qamar represented the party in his place.

The law minister said the NAC bill would soon be tabled in the National Assembly, adding that all inquiries, investigations and under-trial cases of NAB would be transferred to NAC.

He said the PTI wanted to retain the NAB ordinance despite the fact that it was one of the harshest laws of the country introduced in 1999. “Remember that all parliamentary parties have declared NAB Ordinance-1999 a black law, but today a party is supporting it.”

Mr Hamid said all parliamentary parties had agreed to the proposal till 12th meeting of the committee, but in the 16th meeting it was rejected by all parties, including the ruling PML-N.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that Senator Babar had not been taken into confidence by the PPP before changing its stance.

When the PTI and MQM had raised objection to the bill on ‘definition of public office holder’, Mr Babar had said both parties had blocked the way of smooth legislation to bring ‘sacred cows’ under accountability laws.

“Tomorrow no one will blame any institutions but the legislators for not making law for across-the-board accountability despite that fact they had an open chance to do so,” he had said.

In a previous meeting of the committee, Senator Babar had further softened the language of the proposal regarding the judges and generals by calling them public office holders and presented a new definition that “everybody who gets financial benefits from the national exchequer falls in the category of public office holder”.

PTI amendments

The PTI presented before the committee some amendments, which stated that president, governor, prime minister, chairman Senate, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, federal minister, minister of state, attorney general and law officer appointed under the Central Law Officers Ordinance, adviser and special assistant to the prime minister, federal parliamentary secretary, member of parliament, auditor general, political secretary, adviser or consultant to the prime minister, [person who] holds or has held a post or office with the rank or status of a federal minister or minister of stare, chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker of a provincial assembly, provincial minister, adviser and special assistant to the CM, provincial parliamentary secretary, member of the provincial assembly, advocate general, additional advocate general and assistant advocate general and political secretary should be included under the definition of public office-holders.

One of the amendments said “There is a need to retain dedicated accountability courts that exclusively hear NAB cases. The language of this provision merges the contents of the NAO, 1999 and the bill with mainly three changes: (1) the appointment should be made by the president on the advice of the relevant CJ instead of consultation: (2) CJP to be consulted in courts for federal territories; and (3) the terms and conditions of the judges appointment be determined by the CJP instead of the president/government.

“There shall be a chairman NAB to be appointed by the president of Pakistan in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court for a non-extendable period of three years.”

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2017

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