ISLAMABAD, Oct 5: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Friday promulgated the “National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007” after a painstaking process of negotiations between government teams and the People’s Party chairperson in order to confer legitimacy on the presidential elections being held on Saturday.

The federal cabinet earlier approved the ordinance after a special meeting at the Prime Minister’s secretariat.

The ordinance, which was given the final shape on Thursday evening after Benazir Bhutto’s approval, had been put on hold pending a verdict on the stay petition against the election.

The main aim of the ordinance evidently is to give immediate relief to the PPP chairperson. She will get indemnity in all cases that were registered against her by the Nawaz Sharif government. Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s chief, and Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao are expected to be among the other beneficiaries.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, the ruling PML’s secretary-general, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, said only those cases would be withdrawn that were registered between Jan 1, 1986, and Oct 12, 1999, and in which no conviction was made.

An amendment in a 1999 ordinance on accountability has voided orders or judgments passed by courts in absentia.

Another amendment stipulates that all cases that were registered by the National Accountability Bureau in or outside Pakistan against holders of public offices during the period in question would be deemed to have been withdrawn. Furthermore, such persons shall not be liable to any action in future as well for acts done in good faith before the said date.

Yet another amendment — in the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 (Act V, Section 494) — calls for withdrawal of cases registered between Jan 1, 1986, and Oct 12, 1999, by the federal or a provincial government against any person, including an absconding accused, found to have been framed for political reasons. The law will be applicable to only those cases in which no court has given a judgment.

The federal and provincial governments will constitute review boards to examine the entire record of a case in order to determine its merits or otherwise for withdrawal.

ELECTION SAFEGUARDS: Mushahid Hussain said that to avoid rigging in elections, the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, had been amended to provide that the returning officer shall hand over a copy of the result to a candidate and his agents during consolidation proceedings.

Section 18 of the act lays down that no member of parliament or a provincial assembly shall be arrested without taking into consideration the recommendations of a special parliamentary committee on ethics or a special committee of the provincial assembly on ethics. The committees would examine the entire evidence prepared by the National Accountability Bureau.

The parliamentary committee will comprise a chairman, who would be a member of either house of parliament, and eight members each form the National Assembly and the Senate.

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