ISLAMABAD: Members of the opposition in the National Assembly protested on Wednesday after the government issued an ordinance in place of the current National Accountability law.
As the meeting began, lawmakers complained that the government’s decision to issue the ordinance right after announcing a 20-member body to review the legislation rendered the NAB law and the entire organization irrelevant.
The meeting, which was scheduled to elect its chairperson, started off with a commotion.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Naveed Qamar urged lawmakers on treasury benches to explain what prompted the government to issue the ordinance.
On January 7 this year, the government issued an ordinance to amend the accountability law, under which a lifetime ban was imposed on corrupt officials and politicians who struck plea bargain and voluntary return deals with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
PPP’s Qamar stated that the committee, which was mandated to look into the NAB ordinance and its controversial provisions, had been rendered redundant.
In response to Qamar’s remarks, Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman suggested Law Minister Zahid Hamid as the head of the committee, saying: “Let us first elect the chairperson of the committee … We will later discuss other issues.”
The law minister was unanimously endorsed as the head of the body.
Later, he clarified that certain quarters, including the Supreme Court, wanted certain changes in the law governing the NAB.
“The SC also wanted to know the government’s stance on plea bargain and voluntary return and concerns were also conveyed to the prime minister … subsequently, approval for the ordinance was secured from the cabinet,” he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Shah Mehmood Qureshi called for withdrawing the NAB ordinance and stated that the committee should be allowed to deliberate upon the matter.
Barrister Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jamat-e-Islami also joined him in the demand for the ordinance’s withdrawal.
Minister for SAFRON Abdul Qadir Baloch urged the opposition to avoid turning the ordinance controversial because the government had done everything “in good faith”.
Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP suggested that all institutions, including the army and judiciary, should also fall under NAB’s jurisdiction.
He stated that there should not be any discrimination and everybody should be held accountable.
Baloch and Hamid opposed the ordinance’s withdrawal and the committee agreed that one-fourth members should attend the meeting to make the committee functional.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2017.