ISLAMABAD: Another bill seeking to amend the accountability law, dubbed “part two of NRO-2” by the opposition, sailed through the Senate without being referred to the standing committee concerned.

The National Accountability (Amendment) bill, 2023, already passed by the National Assembly last week, was moved in the Senate by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar amid a protest by senators belonging to the PTI.

The bill not only empowers the NAB chairman to transfer graft cases involving corruption of less than Rs500 million to the relevant agency, authority or department, but also close the pending inquiries and investigations where he thinks no case is made out.

Under a proviso added to Section 4 of the NAB Ordinance as and when the office of the NAB chairman falls vacant, or when the chairman is absent or unable to perform the functions of his office, due to any action whatsoever, the deputy chairman shall act as the NAB chairman and in absence of deputy chairman, the federal government shall appoint an acting chairman from amongst the senior officers of NAB.

PTI rejects legislation; JI senator says bill aimed at bringing ‘big thief’ to parliament

“Owing to recent amendments made in the National Acco­untability Ordinance…and the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022 (XVI of 2022), some legal complications have arisen for transfer of those cases from the accountability courts to other courts, tribunals and forums which do not fall within the domain or jurisdiction of the NAB Ordinance. On

initiative of the Prosecutor General Accountability and after having input of relevant stakeholders, certain further amendments in the NAB Ordinance are required to be made urgently to provide legal cover to the accountability courts for transfer of aforesaid cases”, reads the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

The opposition senators, who kept on chanting slogans against the controversial piece of legislation, alleged that the NAB law amendments were person-specific and would render the anti-graft body toothless. They also tore apart the copies of agenda which were seen flying all around.

The house during the requisitioned session, which lasted about an hour, also adopted the house standing committee’s report on the Charged Sums for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill, 2023 by a majority vote of 26-19.

Moments after the law minister moved the NAB law amendment bill in the house, Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem rose to allege that previously they (government) had got passed the NAB amendment law in a hurry, bulldozing legislation to get their cases pardoned.

“We had at that time also called for holding house discussion on the bill so that a better law could be framed, but they wanted it done in a haste with a retrospective effect from 1999 for clearing their own cases and now a need has arisen and they have brought this bill, which is part-II of the NRO-II for they know there will be difficulties for them,” he asserted.

He accused the government of making parliament a joke by getting adopted a NAB bill first from a “truncated” National Assembly and now wanted to bulldoze it in the Senate. “This is persons-specific legislation to curtail the judiciary’s jurisdiction and curtail its powers for the rulers only wanted to further their political interests,” he claimed. He wanted its referral to the house standing committee, warning otherwise, they would have to bring its part III.

The opposition leader also pointed out that the standing committee’s report on the provincial assemblies’ elections charged expenditure did not incorporate viewpoint of his party’s two senators, who are members of the committee concerned.

Taking strong exception to his remarks, and those of JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, who alleged the NAB law amendment bill was aimed at bringing “the big thief to parliament” and “put the small one behind bars”, the law minister said the proposed legislation would strengthen the courts and empower them to refer cases to other forums, instead of this being done by a NAB chairman or the executive board.

The house also passed a bill to amend the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the Code of Civil Procedure Bill, 2023, that aims to provide relief to the litigants and remove the excessive burden from courts.

The house also passed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill and the Pakistan Maritime Zones Bill 2023, which seeks to consolidate and amend the law relating to territorial sea and maritime zones of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2023

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