ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday announced that the recent amendments to the laws pertaining to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and elections would be challenged before court.

Speaking at a news conference at Kashmir House in Islamabad, the ex-minister said the ‘unnatural alliance’ of parties having different political ideologies had the common agenda of pressurising PTI chairman Imran Khan who had been making all-out efforts to purge corruption from society.

All the ruling parties gave ‘NRO-II’ (a term used to describe legal compromises for the sake of political reconciliation) to themselves by amending the NAB law, Mr Qureshi said.

“While we were doing legislation on Financial Action Task Force (FATF), I was leading the team of PTI during a meeting held at the then National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser’s residence and there were Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Farooq Naek, Sherry Rehman and others. They handed over a document in which over 30 amendments to NAB law were suggested. They said the opposition would cooperate on FATF legislation if PTI amends the NAB law.

Fawad says Hamza has lost right to continue as Punjab CM

“Now 24 amendments [to NAB law] have been done which are exactly the same that had been shared with me,” the PTI leader said.

He said the beneficiary of the legislation was elite class.

“Now high and mighty have been protected against corruption. United Nations has set a standard and the amendments are not in accordance with those standards. Even those amendments are not in accordance with the FATF. I urge the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice,” he said.

Due to the amendments, he said, the bureau had become ‘dysfunctional’, rather an “ancillary department of the federal government. They have tried to convert NAB into anti-corruption department of Punjab or Federal Investigation Agency.

“All the under-trial cases will be affected after this legislation and around 80pc cases will be sent to courts other than NAB courts. Similarly, amendment has been made in sections that deal with bank transactions such as Section 9. Sub-section A-5’s direct beneficiary is Shehbaz Sharif. Amendment in Section 14 will benefit Nawaz Sharif, because responsibility of [providing] money trail has been withdrawn from accused. They have changed the definition of Benami. Now information acquired from abroad will not be effective for NAB cases,” he said.

“There was provision of inquiry on illegal provision of statutory regulatory order, but it has been eliminated. Moreover, NAB chairman had the ‘right to arrest’ persons but now he has been made ‘practically powerless’ due to which accused will be benefitted. Rights of President of Pakistan have been withdrawn to benefit high-profile cases. We have decided to challenge the amendments in court and directed the legal team to do so,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said the incumbent government withdrew the voting right facility that the PTI government had given to overseas Pakistanis. He explained that the voting right was provided because the overseas Pakistanis had sent US$32 billion to the country last year and many of them were technocrats who could play a role in policymaking.

“Another aim was to develop interests of the new generation of Pakistanis living abroad as they don’t want to return. We wanted to create their emotional link by giving right to vote. The government has withdrawn the facility because it believes that majority of overseas Pakistanis is in favour of PTI. We have decided to challenge it as well,” he said.

He said the legislation pertaining to use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had been amended despite the fact that EVMs could address majority of the complaints. He said: “PML-N had complaints regarding Daska by-election and EVMs are the perfect solution to such complaints. But it was said that people were illiterate and they could not use EVMs. I would say that same machines were being used in India successfully despite the fact that there were more illiterate people there as compared to Pakistan so why they cannot be used here.”

The PTI vice chairman claimed: “There are elements in the country who want results of their choice but PTI wants to stop it.” He explained that he won National Assembly’s election in 2018 by a lead of 36,000 votes and the result was announced at 10pm. “But on the provincial assembly’s seat, which was in the same constituency, the result was announced at 4am and I lost with a difference of 3,600 votes.”

Also during the recent long march, Mr Qureshi said, teargas was fired, roads were blocked with containers and even lawyers were thrashed during the protest, which meant “some other forces wanted it as police hesitate to take action against lawyers”.

While claiming that majority of lawyers was with the PTI, he said that Rs200 million had been allocated for the bars to “change lawyers’ affiliation”.

Meanwhile, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said after the de-notification of dissident MPAs by the Election Commission of Pakistan, Hamza Shehbaz should not continue as Punjab chief minister.

He urged the institutions to think about the situation in Pakistan’s largest province where as the law was being openly violated.

He said the PML-N did not have majority in the provincial assembly and the elections for the chief minister should be held again.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2022

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