Govt moves to curtail NAB powers

Published July 26, 2020
The ordinance had been dubbed by many critics as a “mother of all NROs” to businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians. — Reuters/File
The ordinance had been dubbed by many critics as a “mother of all NROs” to businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The government has prepared a new draft of the bill suggesting amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance 1999 after the lapse of the NAB (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2019, which had been promulgated by President Arif Alvi in December last year, curtailing the watchdog powers regarding action against bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen.

After lapse of the NAB Ordinance (Second Amendment) 2019 on April 26 over completion of its 120-day constitutional life, the government had decided to prepare a new draft and to take the opposition into confidence over it.

The ordinance had been dubbed by many critics as a “mother of all NROs” to businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians and even the opposition had initially opposed it, but later agreed to sit with the government to discuss it.

The opposition parties had also initially made a hue and cry over the government’s act of promulgating the ordinance accusing the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of taking another U-turn on its slogan of across-the-board accountability, but later not only agreed to hold negotiations with the government but some of the politicians also took relief under the ordinance.

Draft bill prepared after lapse of second amendment ordinance

The NAB Ordinance 2019 had been introduced basically to provide relief to businessmen by excluding their cases pertaining to “federal or provincial taxation, levies or imposts” within the purview of the accountability law and transferring the existing trials from the accountability courts to the criminal courts dealing with such offences.

The ordinance had taken care of not only the business community but also politicians and bureaucrats to some extent, as it redefined the terms “misuse of authority” and “acts done in good faith”.

Sources said the government had decided to place the new draft before the newly-constituted 24-member parliamentary committee constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser recently to discuss the pending legislation, as the government also planned to hold a joint sitting of the parliament sometime after Eidul Azha.

The draft mostly has the same wording that the previous ordinance had, but it also has new clauses suggesting that the appointment of NAB chairman, deputy chairman and prosecutor general should be extendable.

The proposed draft, a copy of which is available with Dawn, says: “the provisions of this ordinance shall not apply to the following persons and transactions, namely: (a) matters pertaining to federal or provincial taxation, levies or imposts.”

It says that upon the commencement of the Act, “all pending inquiries and investigations shall stand transferred to the respective authorities or departments which administer the relevant laws of taxation, levies or imposts in question; and “trials shall stand transferred from the relevant accountability courts to the criminal courts which deal with offences under the respective laws pertaining to taxation, levies or imposts in question.”

It says, “With regard to procedural lapses in any government project or scheme, no action under this ordinance shall be taken against any holder of public office, unless it is shown that the holder of public office, his dependents or benamidars have benefitted by gaining any material benefit, and there is evidence to corroborate the acquiring of such benefit”.

The draft further says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in this ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, the valuation of immovable properties, for the purposes of assessing as to whether a holder of public office has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, shall be reckoned either according to the applicable rate prescribed by the District Collector or the Federal Board of Revenue, whichever is higher. No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible.”

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020

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