ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to abolish ‘A class’ facility in jails for those arrested on charges of mega corruption at a time when the leadership of major political parties and some top businessmen are behind bars facing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references.
The announcement was made by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem during a press conference, which was also addressed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, on Saturday. Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Law Minister Sultan Mohammad Khan accompanied them.
The federal minister said that an amendment was being introduced to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 according to which the accused persons facing charges of corruption exceeding Rs500 million would only be kept in ‘C class’ facility in jails.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had told a private news channel in July that he had issued directives to the law ministry to introduce an amendment to the law for withdrawal of ‘A class’ facility for prisoners.
Firdous asks opposition parties to back PM’s efforts towards Kashmir cause
As per the Prisoners Rules, the ‘A class’ prisoners are kept in separate barracks and rooms and they can avail themselves of the facilities at their own expense.
Currently, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, nephew Hamza Shahbaz, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former minister Miftah Ismail, Abbas Sharif, co-chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, and several businessmen are in jail. Except Nawaz Sharif and Maryam, who had been convicted in NAB references, all others are under trial prisoners.
In response to a question, Dr Awan said the proposed amendment for detaining prisoners in ‘C class’ was not specific to the opposition parties. The proposed legislation was aimed at ensuring equality in society, she explained, claiming that the government was not going to benefit from this amendment.
She said the PTI government might not be there after completing its term but the proposed amendment to the law must remain in effect to end VIP culture in jails.
When contacted, former law minister Senator Farooq H. Naek said the prison was a provincial subject and since there was no jail in the federal capital, therefore, any legislation regarding prisoners rules by the federal law ministry would be a futile exercise.
CPC, dress code for courts
Regarding other proposals, Dr Naseem said that certain amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) were under consideration to protect immovable properties of overseas Pakistanis. Besides, he said, CPC restructuring was also before parliament. He said the government was introducing the law against benami transactions and the whistleblower will be a dovetail of this legislation.
He said the federal government had also decided to repeal a statute that empowered the government to define dress code for the superior judiciary. According to him, the Supreme Court and High Courts may select the dress code in accordance with their own convenience.
The other legislations related to Women Ombudsperson, Succession Certificate, Conflict of Interest, and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) were also in process, the law minister added.
Regarding his remarks about invoking Article 149 for Karachi, the law minister termed the criticism baseless and said that this constitutional provision was “deliberately misinterpreted for political reasons”.
Meanwhile, Dr Awan said democracy could not be completed without the role of opposition and asked the opposition parties to be on the same page for Kashmir cause, as the issue was far beyond personal and political goals, adds APP.
She said PM Khan had exposed the real face of India to the world and urged the opposition to contribute positively towards his efforts. “Whoever denied Pakistan’s statement over Kashmir cause will be out of politics forever,” she remarked.
She said all the institutions were working to implement the PM’s roadmap.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2019