LAHORE: A lawyer on Saturday challenged before the Lahore High Court amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, through a presidential ordinance which has curtailed powers of the anti-corruption watchdog to investigate businessmen and bureaucrats in particular.
“The watchdog authority has been chained by joining hands with the parliamentarians, civil administration and the business community,” said advocate Ishtiaq A. Chaudhry in a ‘public interest’ petition.
He argued that Article 25(1) of the Constitution postulated that all citizens were equal before law and they were entitled to equal protection of law.
The petitioner said the special facilitation given to suspects of NAB whereby powers to arrest and investigate had been interfered and a new plea-bargain before investigation had been introduced, was highly discriminatory.
He pleaded that Article 5 of the Constitution provided for loyalty to the state and the recent amendments introduced in the NAO were likely to make public office holder corrupt and disloyal to the state.
The lawyer argued that the restriction imposed on issuance of public statements by NAB on inquiries was in direct conflict with the fundamental right to know enshrined in Article 19-A of the Constitution.
He said power of the NAB chairman had also been curtailed to protect bureaucrats as prior approval from a six-member scrutiny committee comprising the chairman, cabinet and establishment secretaries, chairmen of the Federal Board of Revenue and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and a representative of the law and justice division will be required to hold any inquiry, investigation or arrest a government servant.
The petitioner also questioned eliminating the role of the NAB chief in appointment of the bureau’s prosecutor general and reducing maximum limit of physical remand from 90 days to 14 days under the impugned amendments.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2019