National Assembly extends NAB ordinance amid protest

Published May 29, 2021
The issue of some private housing societies also came under discussion. — APP/File
The issue of some private housing societies also came under discussion. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid strong protest from the opposition over an incomplete quorum, the National Assembly on Friday extended the newly amended National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance-1999 for another 120 days.

The opposition claimed that NA Speaker Asad Qaiser had allowed the passage of a resolution for a second extension of the NAB Ordinance despite the absence of quorum due to which all business of the lower house of parliament should have been suspended.

The issue of some private housing societies also came under discussion as lawmakers said that Jammu Kashmir Employees Housing Society, Senate Employees Housing Society and the Supreme Court Employees Housing Society had nothing to do with these institutions whose names had been used to launch these societies.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member Shagufta Jumani said when she and many of her colleagues came to parliament in 2002, they had invested in Senate Housing Society and except a few, who got their investment refunded, the hard-earned money of many parliamentarians was stuck up, with the fate of the society still hanging in the balance.

When MNA Iqbal Ahmed complained about a massive fraud in the Jammu and Kashmir Housing Society, the interior secretary said NAB was investigating the case. The official then said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had not issued any No Objection Certificate (NOC) to any housing society during its tenure.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal said the Punjab government had not restored local government institutions for over two months despite the Supreme Court orders. He demanded that the apex court take legal action against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for violating its orders.

Earlier at the start of the session, PML-N lawmaker Shaikh Fayyazuddin pointed out the quorum due to thin attendance of members.

The Speaker then got members present in the house counted. As it was found that the quorum was incomplete, he suspended the proceedings of the house till the completion of the quorum.

However, the session resumed after some time.

When Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan presented a resolution for extending the NAB Ordinance, Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Sikandar Rahpoto drew attention of the chair towards lack of quorum.

However, the Speaker allowed the passage of the resolution to which the opposition strongly objected.

PML-N lawmaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who also served as deputy speaker in the last PML-N regime, said the Speaker had committed the violation of the Constitution for a sixth time.

“No Speaker had ever done this in the history of the parliament,” he added.

Only after the passage of the resolution, the Speaker again ordered the counting of members and when it was found again that the quorum was incomplete, he prorogued the house for an indefinite period.

Leaders of all mainstream political parties have been calling for curtailing what they called “sweeping powers” of the anti-graft watchdog by amending the National Accountability Ordinance.

President Dr Arif Alvi had in February promulgated the ordinance for NAB’s prosecutor general (accountability), the post seen as the most significant after NAB’s chairman as no reference can be filed without the PG’s approval. The ordinance not only led to the reappointment of Syed Asghar Haider as the prosecutor general (accountability) for another term of three years, but also lifted the bar for another similar extension. Mr Haider’s term had expired on January 28.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021

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