ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government wants the opposition not to link legislation related to the action plan of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with their proposal to amend the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
The proposed amendments to the FATF-related United Nations (Security Council) Bill 2020, Anti Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 and NAO came under discussion at the second meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Legislative Business presided over by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
After the in-camera meeting, Mr Qureshi told the media that the opposition sought time to deliberate on the draft bills. He said the committee decided to meet again on Tuesday.
Sources in the committee told Dawn that apparently the opposition wanted both bills passed simultaneously. However, they said, the government desired that amendments to the NAO should not be linked with the FATF-related legislation.
FM Qureshi says opposition has sought time to deliberate on draft bills
The amendments to the NAO are almost the same that were introduced through a presidential ordinance promulgated in December last year. However, a ‘controversial’ clause related to extension in the term of the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was included in the proposal which, according to a committee member, has been withdrawn.
But the government side claimed that so far there had been no understanding with the opposition over the extension in tenure of the NAB chairman.
A ruling party member of the committee said it was too early to make such a claim. “It has not yet been decided whether the NAB chairman would get an extension or not. We, however, conveyed to the opposition not to link the FATF-related legislation [with the NAO amendments] since it is related to the national interest,” he said.
According to him, the FATF-related legislation has to be done before Aug 3, whereas amendments to the NAO can be done any time after due deliberations. He said the government might make a commitment with the opposition related to crucial amendments to the NAB law, but since it would take time, “we would try to convince the opposition to separate this from the FATF-related bill”.
Talking to the media, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said: “The government wants a general consensus on the FATF bill since it is a national issue.” He, however, ruled out the possibility of abolishing any institution as desired by some opposition members.
The NAO amendment bill reportedly seeks to spare public office holders from NAB action for any step taken in “good faith”. The draft law on NAB and eight bills aimed at removing the country from FATF’s grey list have been shared with the opposition.
A 24-member committee, headed by Foreign Minister Qureshi and comprising members from the ruling PTI and its allies and opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party, is examining the bills before tabling them in both houses of parliament for final approval.
The NAO amendment bill proposes omitting the word “non-extendable” from clause (i) of sub-section (b) of Section 6 that pertains to the tenure of the NAB chairman that is currently four years.
It has also been suggested that extension in tenures of the NAB deputy chairman and prosecutors general of accountability, who are appointed for three years, be allowed by removing the word “non-extendable” from Sections 7 and 8.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2020