ISLAMABAD: The Nati­onal Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022 sailed through Senate on Thursday amid strong protests by the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) senators who termed the legislation an attempt to turn the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) into a “toothless” organisation.

The opposition resorted to protests after Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan moved a motion seeking suspension of rules to introduce the NAB amendment bill. Mr Awan’s request was opposed by the opposition on the grounds that the coalition government wanted to save its leadership by clipping NAB’s wings. The government, however, said the bill was being moved in the public interest.

PTI leader Syed Shibli Faraz said the intent of the bill was to make NAB a “toothless organisation”, adding that it was being done by a government facing serious corruption charges, with 60 per cent of its cabinet members on bail. He said the government had no moral justification to bring forth the legislation that will directly benefit its members. “We will oppose this tooth and nail,” he remarked. He said NAB will have no jurisdiction to proceed in corruption cases involving less than Rs500 million. “If this is the standard, release all prisoners who committed corruption less than that,” he quipped.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) said a criminal law cannot be given a retrospective effect. He said under an amendment NAB would not be able to act against those who whiten their black money through amnesty schemes. “This would provide a backdoor to mafias,” he added.

Editorial: Gutting NAB

Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan claimed he could prove that these amend­ments were being bro­ught in the public interest.

But the protest continued and the opposition senators stood up in their seats after a voice vote that allowed the house to consider the bill. They chanted slogans, ripped up copies of the agenda, and gathered around the speaker’s podium to register their disapproval. Subsequently, the opposition members walked out of the house before the bill was passed.

Tiff over ECP verdict

The upper house also witnessed a debate over the recent ruling by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that confirmed prohibited funds were received by the PTI.

Former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said the ECP ruled that the PTI had received funding from prohibited sources. He said the party has been found to have “received funds from over 350 foreign companies besides hiding several accounts”.

On the question of whether or not the government will file a reference seeking a ban on the PTI under Article 17, he said it was the government’s decision to choose between legal and constitutional paths. He said in his personal view, the government should proceed against Imran Khan under Article 62 (1)(f) for signing “grossly inaccurate certificates” for five consecutive years. “You can make a mistake once or twice but not for five years in a row,” he remarked. He said there should also be criminal investigations against PTI leaders who “managed hidden and disowned accounts”.

PTI’s Ejaz Chaudhry criticised the ECP’s decision saying that many of the overseas Pakistanis had been shown as foreigners in it.

PPP’s Nisar Khoro chided PTI for its insistence that foreign funding cases against all political parties should have been clubbed together. Rejecting the criticism against the chief election commissioner, he recalled that he had been appointed by the PTI itself.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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