ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to strip the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of powers to investigate the affairs of persons other than holders of public offices by amending the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), commonly known as the NAB law.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the federal Minister for Law and Justice, Dr Farogh Nasim, explained the amendments being proposed to “rationalise” the NAB law and said one of them was aimed to “exclude the private person from the jurisdiction of NAB”.
“Someone who has never held a public office and is also not related to a holder of public office, being a private person he/she should not be under the jurisdiction of NAB,” said Barrister Nasim.
The businesspersons should be subject to relevant laws of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in case they get involved in tax evasion and other financial irregularities, the minister said.
Farogh Nasim says businesspersons should be subject to laws of the Federal Board of Revenue and Federal Investigation Agency
The watchdog might also be barred from interfering in matters relating to financial disputes between private parties because the organisation was created mainly to investigate mega-corruption cases, he said.
According to Dr Nasim, a proposed amendment would empower the accountability court to grant bail to a NAB accused.
Under the NAO of 1999, there is no provision for grant of bail to a NAB suspect; as a result, a suspect has to file a petition under Article 199 with the high court to seek a bail. A citizen can invoke Article 199 and file a petition with the high court to enforce fundamental rights when there is no remedy available under the law.
The law minister also said his ministry is working on redefining the provisions related to voluntary return of the embezzled amount and release of a person under a plea bargain.
Barrister Nasim said the proposed amendments had been drafted while keeping in view the recent judgements of Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.
NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal is on board on matters relating to rationalisation of the NAB law, he said. The government is also considering taking steps to enhance the capacity of NAB staff.
Turning to the work carried out by his ministry since August last year, Dr Nasim said that although it tabled several bills in parliament to streamline the otherwise complicated legal procedures, due to the opposition’s non-cooperation these bills could not become law.
He said that because the opposition enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Senate even the laws that are directly related to the welfare of citizens could not be passed in that house.
He gave a brief introduction of the laws which the ministry had tabled in parliament in the last one year and which were approved by the relevant committees. He said that 22 laws had been formulated in the past 12 months, of which six had been approved by the lower house of parliament.
During the period, the ministry also set up a website (www.pakistancode.gov.pk) which was accessed by over 55 million users.
According to Barrister Nasim, the law ministry has tabled among others a bill related to amendments in the civil procedure code, the Whistle Blower Act, Legal Aid Authority Bill, Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, Women Ombudsman Bill, Succession Act, and Christian Marriage Bill.
The minister also spoke about the Kashmir dispute and said that Pakistan had presented its case before the United Nations Security Council in an effective manner. He also praised US President Donald Trump for offering to mediate between Pakistan and India on the issue.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019