ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties on Wednesday slammed the government’s decision to make some procedural changes in the working of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to provide fearless environment for businessmen and called for complete review of the accountability laws in order to stop the bureau’s use as a tool to victimise political opponents and to carry out across-the-board accountability.
The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), while commenting on the government’s proposed move, questioned NAB’s functioning in the presence of special mechanism and special forums for accountability of the officials and personnel of other state institutions.
The federal cabinet in its meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday had decided to make procedural changes in the working of NAB to provide “fearless” environment for business activities and investment for the revival of crippling economy.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting had stated that the decision had been made in light of complaints of the business community against NAB. She said the cabinet observed that businessmen were afraid of NAB and not investing their money. She said the cabinet observed that business activities had stopped and the economy had crippled due to the fear of NAB.
She told the reporters that the cabinet in its next meeting would come up with concrete steps to end the practice of arm-twisting and threatening by NAB officials.
PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal called for complete review of the NAB laws.
Talking to Dawn, he said there must be across-the-board accountability and there could not be separate laws for accountability of civil servants and public office holders.
“It will be appropriate that a transparent mechanism for across-the-board accountability be adopted. Politicians, public office holders, civil servants and all have to be treated under one law,” he said, adding that “everyone is entitled to have same fundamental rights”.
Mr Iqbal said when military had a system of “court martial” and there was a Supreme Judicial Council for the judges’ accountability, then there must be a “supreme parliamentary commission” for the accountability of parliamentarians and politicians.
Mr Iqbal said the government was in touch with the opposition in the past over the issue of changes to NAB laws and the opposition had submitted a comprehensive set of proposals to it, but the government had not responded.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said in a statement that the decision in principle taken by the federal cabinet to review NAB laws and procedures which were offensive to businessmen and the civil bureaucracy was “discriminatory, mala fide and tinted with victimisation of the political class”.
Mr Rabbani said that various accountability mechanisms and laws already provided for a trial by peers of judiciary and military and civil bureaucracies. The only class subjected to a special law and specials courts, he said, was the political class.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019