AGP advises PM Imran to refer amended NAO to parliament

Published November 4, 2021
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan calls on Prime Minister Imran Khan in this file photo. — PID
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan calls on Prime Minister Imran Khan in this file photo. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan has advised Prime Minister Imran Khan to get the third amendment in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) improved through parliament as its enforcement through a presidential decree is not sustainable under the law.

An informed source told Dawn on Wednesday that the attorney general (AGP), who met the prime minister recently, suggested the ordinance promulgated through a third amendment earlier this week still carried certain loopholes that cannot be plugged through another presidential ordinance.

According to the source, since the procedure for removing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman still seemed to be a bone of contention, it had been suggested to the prime minister that the National Assembly and the Senate be allowed to debate it thoroughly and make amendments.

In its present form, the AGP said in his meeting with the prime minister, the ordinance can be challenged before the superior courts, which may rule that it was an invalid law.

The government had promulgated the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2021 on Monday (Nov 1) to empower the President to remove the NAB chairman by stripping the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) of its power to do so.

The decision to amend the ordinance through the third amendment was made after seeking approval from the prime minister during a meeting held last Wednesday (Oct 27).

The meeting was attended by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak and Adviser to the PM on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar. The AGP did not attend the meeting.

According to the source, the NAO empowers the NAB chief to frame rules for functioning of the bureau. Under the present circumstances, he will have to make rules for his own removal if a charge of misconduct comes up against him.

The bureau had placed before the Supreme Court its rules (NAB Rules 2020) on Aug 27 last year in compliance of a Supreme Court directive after the NAB chief framed it in terms of Section 34 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.

Then the NAB rules were published in the gazette of Pakistan empowering it to take cognisance of any suspected offence under Section 18 (b) of the NAO. The ordinance lays down that the NAB chairman’s decision would be final regarding decisions to file or not to file a reference after fulfilling formalities.

The decision cannot be called into question by any authority in NAB.

The source said a number of participants wondered what was the harm in bringing the NAB chairman within the purview of the council as other important constitutional offices like the judges of superior courts, the Auditor General and the Federal Ombudsman can be removed by initiating proceedings before the SJC.

Earlier, Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem explained to Dawn that under the present ordinance, the standard set by the SJC for removing a superior court judge would remain applicable for removing the NAB chairman as well, but the forum will be the President and not the SJC.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2021

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