Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday accused the government of amending accountability laws to protect the "corrupt elite class", claiming PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be "direct beneficiaries of the changes".
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi alleged the amendments made by the government to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 were the ones they had once proposed to the PTI in an attempt to get the NRO — a term politicians used to imply concessions.
The National Assembly had on May 26 approved the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Amendments to NAB Ordinance
- NAB deputy chairman to become acting chairman following top official's retirement.
- Process to appoint new chairman to begin two months prior to incumbent's retirement and completed in 40 days.
- Federal and provincial tax matters removed from NAB's purview.
- Regulatory bodies' decisions removed from NAB's purview.
- Judges to be appointed in accountability courts for a three-year period; cases to be decided within year.
- NAB bound to ensure availability of evidence prior to arrest.
- Up to five-years imprisonment for filing false reference.
According to Qureshi, the prime minister will be a direct beneficiary of the amendment made in Section-9 (A-V) which deals with corruption and corrupt practises as well as wealth beyond sources of income.
Similarly, the former minister claimed PML-N supremo Nawaz will also directly benefit from changes in Section-14 of the NAO, which relates to "presumption against accused accepting illegal gratification". Under this section, the suspect who was bound to furnish a money trail will no longer be required to provide the same, he added.
He told the journalists that a blanket cover had been given to all cases pertaining to money laundering and asset beyond means.
"After the amendment, the legal and statutory protection to NAB has been compromised and it has now come under the federal government."
PTI to approach Supreme Court
The senior PTI leader said his party had decided to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the amendments along with other election-related legislation passed by the government, saying "we also urge the top court to take notice of changes to the NAB law which has made the accountability watchdog dysfunctional".
He was of the view that the entire exercise undertaken by the PML-N-led government was aimed at "benefitting" political personalities who were facing high profile cases.
He said the amendments approved by the government were in contravention of the UN Convention gainst Corruption and Financial Action Task Force requirements.
Qureshi said that around "80 per cent of NAB cases" will be transferred to other courts from accountability courts, saying "this is exactly what the PML-N and the PPP had been looking forward to for a long time".
The PTI leader also objected to the passage of the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022, which seeks to remove the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections as well as disallows overseas Pakistanis from voting electronically.
"Overseas Pakistanis are significant contributors to our economy, but the PPP and the PML-N believe that Pakistanis based abroad are inclined towards the PTI, hence it excluded all of them from voting right, which is injustice," the ex-minister added.
He said the PTI also planned to challenge the amendments to the election law as well.
Qureshi recalled that he contested polls in 2018 from NA-156 and PP-217 , saying: "I won the NA seat whose result was announced at 10pm, but I lost the provincial seat as its result was declared at 4am."
He said the staff tasked with counting the votes and managing the entire process were the same. "I am telling you because I have seen this happen."
The PTI leader said the electronic voting machines were introduced to eliminate chances of vote tampering, but the opposition did "where it finds its benefit".