What else than ‘yet another U-turn’ shall we call it? Prime Minister Imran Khan has cleared corrupt individuals — those that were left off the hook by NAB on entering into a plea-bargain deal — for appointment as directors of public and private companies. The same Imran Khan who, as opposition leader, never spared an opportunity to lash out at the ‘shameful’ provision of the accountability law that gives a clean-chit to a corrupt official if he agrees to return to the exchequer a small percentage of the public wealth he had looted. Umpteen times has Khan been quoted as calling the plea-bargain clause of the law a slap in the face of transparency, honesty and justice, and demanding that the graft watchdog be disbanded for ‘patronising corruption’.
Last week, the PTI-led federal government promulgated a presidential ordinance to amend various sections of the Companies Act, 2017. One of these is section 172 that had barred officials and businessmen having clinched plea-bargain deals from becoming directors of public or private companies. The promulgation came only a week before the National Assembly was to go into a three-day session. The Companies Act, 2017 — that had replaced the Companies Ordinance, 1984 — had been enacted by the previous government, led by the PML-N. The new act carried Section 172 that lays out disqualification conditions for a person to hold the office of a director of a company for a period of up to five years beginning from the date of the order.
As the PTI government amended the Companies Act, 2017 through the presidential ordinance last week, it also deleted the sub-section M of Section 172 that reads: “the person has entered a plea bargain arrangement with NAB or any other regulatory body”. Thus, all those who had clinched a plea-bargain deal with NAB are now fit again to head any public or private company — courtesy the PTI.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2020.
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