ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said on Tuesday his party would challenge new legislation seeking to clip the vast powers of the National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) in the Supreme Court this week.

Earlier this month, a joint session of parliament passed three bills, including those related to election reforms and the accountability law. According to the government, amendments to the NAB law were aimed at preventing the “misuse of law for political engineering and victimisation of opponents”.

The changes were criticised by Mr Khan and his party, as he said the move would destroy the country by protecting white-collar criminals from accountability.

In a live video broadcast on Tuesday, the former prime minister described the amendments as a “bigger crime than dropping a bomb on the country” and said those behind the move should be thrown into jail “due to their shamelessness”.

He said the assembly session where the amendment bill was passed was a “mockery and a joke with the country”.

NAB’s autonomy had been reduced drastically, as it would not be able to investigate money-laundering cases under the new law,” he said.

Hoping that the courts would take notice of the development, he said such moves would be detrimental to the country if not prevented. He said laws formulated in the country should not be specific to any specific person but instead apply to the collective whole.

Tackling the major amendments one by one, the PTI chief explained how they would be used to allegedly eliminate several cases against leaders of the coalition government.

Mr Khan claimed that he was pressured throughout his tenure as prime minister and blackmailed to provide a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)-type deal to major political figures of the present coalition government, but he did not give in.

“It should be clear now their return [to power] was not to reduce inflation,” he said, adding that if the present government remained in power, the country would be on its way to a situation similar to the one in Sri Lanka.

Passing and implementing the NAB amendment law was tantamount to giving a licence to commit corruption, as the powerful people would not fear punishment now, he said.

He went on to say that PML-N leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, and PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari would be the major beneficiaries of these changes. Mr Khan insisted that countries with discriminatory laws for the poor and the rich faced devastation.

Mr Khan alleged that both NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been subdued by the interior ministry headed by Rana Sanaullah to close corruption cases against Sharif and Zardari families.

He vowed that he would continue his struggle against this “corrupt clan”, as history would not forgive the “local abettors of the US-backed foreign conspiracy”, which he said resulted in the imposition of current rulers on Pakistan.

Earlier on Tuesday, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi rejected the notion that the NAB reforms bill was designed to close ongoing graft cases against the party’s leadership.

“Cases against us will continue,” he told reporters outside an accountability court after a journalist asked him about allegations that the intention behind the legislation was to end corruption cases against incumbent rulers.

He said that most of the amendments proposed to the NAB law were in fact during the PTI’s tenure and several federal ministers had admitted that these were necessary to fulfil the requirements of justice.

Banning PTI ‘out of question’

Meanwhile, PTI Central Secretary Information Farrukh Habib told the media outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office on Tuesday that the political opponents had fallen into the pit they dug for the PTI, as they don’t have the evidence and receipts of their own foreign funding.

He said the ECP concluded a hearing of PTI’s prohibited funding case, which was the only political party that laid the foundation of political fundraising.

Mr Habib said that despite serious reservations regarding Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, the PTI was expecting an impartial and unbiased decision, as the PTI submitted all the evidence and banking transactions pertaining to the case.

He said banning the PTI in the case was out of the question, as it was not a case of foreign funding but prohibited funding.

However, he added that it would be a litmus test for other political parties to prove their innocence, as they did not have a record of their foreign funding.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2022

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