PM to consult aides as NAB chief induction looms

Govt’s legal minds mostly agree with amendments to NAO proposed by AGP


Hasnaat Malik October 05, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold a crucial meeting with senior federal ministers and legal minds on the appointment/extension of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman as well as amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 on Tuesday (today).

Sources told The Express Tribune that a meeting, attended by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Accountability Shahzad Akbar Mirza and others, was held on Monday to consider the proposed amendment to the NAO 1999.

The meeting deliberated on the proposals given by the AGP regarding the amendments. It is learnt that the government’s legal minds and senior ministers agreed with most of the AGP’s proposals; however, the law minister disagreed that the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) should be the forum for the removal of the NAB chairman.

One section within the government suggested that the appointing authority – the President of Pakistan – should be given the power to remove the NAB chairman. Likewise, rules should be framed about the procedure for the removal.

It has already been mentioned in the law that the NAB chairman can be dismissed on the same grounds which are used for the removal of judges. But the participants of the meeting agreed that only constitutional public office holders should be tried by the SJC and not the heads of statutory bodies like NAB. However, the final decision in this regard will be taken on Tuesday (today).

It is also learnt that a few participants want that incumbent NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal should be given another four-year term without consulting the leader of opposition in the National Assembly.

However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and the AGP opposed the suggestion, saying that the opposition leader must be consulted to ensure transparency in the accountability process. It is likely that the incumbent NAB chairman would work until the appointment of his successor.

Read Fawad rules out consulting Shehbaz on NAB chief

A federal minister revealed that it was difficult to accept the AGP’s proposal for structuring the NAB chairman’s power of arrest, even though superior courts had questioned misuse of arrest power by the NAB chairman in several cases.

Political analysts believe that no major amendment can be done in the NAO 1999 without the consent of ‘powerful circles’, who want the extension of the incumbent NAB chairman.

The government’s legal minds are on the same page to give the option of bail in the NAO 1999. Likewise, the deadline regarding the conclusion of trials in NAB cases would be extended from 30 days to six months.

The apex court in the Talat Ishaq case had suggested parliament amend the NAO 1999 to fix an appropriate time frame for the conclusion of the trials. It is learnt that the government has decided to promulgate an ordinance this week.

Read SJC deliberates over its jurisdiction to proceed against NAB chairman

The opposition parties will be consulted before making the ordinance an act of parliament. A debate has started as to how the president will exercise power regarding the NAB chairman’s removal after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and will the president be bound to obey the advice of the prime minister in this regard.

One section of the lawyers believes that the NAB chairman has unfettered discretionary powers, therefore, the executive should not be the authority to oust the NAB chairman. They also say that SJC should be the forum to oust the NAB chairman in order to ensure transparency in the accountability process.

Some senior lawyers are also wondering as to why the government and the ‘powerful circles’ want the incumbent NAB chairman to continue. A senior minister said that the prime minister would start the process of consultation for a new NAB chairman soon.

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