Opposition lambasts accountability law tweak

Bilawal, Abbasi term NAB ordinance illegal and malicious


​ Our Correspondents October 08, 2021
Chairman Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto addressing a press conference in Islamabad on June 4, 2021. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

The major opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were up in arms on Thursday against the NAB Amendment Ordinance, issued on Wednesday to extend the tenure of its current chairman.

Top leaders of the two parties, including PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N Senior Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said the National Accountability Second Amendment Ordinance 2021 was not only “illegal” but had been promulgated with “malicious intent”.

Though, Planning Minister Asad Umar defended the ordinance, as a step towards steering the graft buster to “its actual purpose”, the opposition leaders said that the new law aimed at protecting the incumbent ministers from any accountability.

“[The] selected government wants to continue victimisation of opposition while ensuring the prime minister, his family, government and cronies continue to be immune from accountability, especially post-Pandora Papers,” the PPP chairman said on Twitter.

Read NAO an attempt to steer NAB in right direction, says Umar

“Through the ordinance, the government has given itself an NRO,” former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told a press conference in Islamabad, while referring to the political amnesty granted by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf through the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2007.

Flanked by party leaders, Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Khurram Dastgir Khan and others, Abbasi said that even in “sham democracies” the autocratic tools like ordinance are not used. This matter should have been brought to parliament for debate and improvement in the law,” he added.

“According to the ordinance, nobody can hold the cabinet accountable for its actions. This meant that those responsible for the Rs800 billion sugar theft, hundreds of billions in flour, wheat and medicine theft and corruption, ring-road corruption cannot be questioned anymore,” Abbasi said.

“This will also mean that nobody will be able to question the government's appointments, no matter how out-of-line and merit they might be. It will also mean that the 700 persons listed in the Pandora Papers, including the five government ministers could not be questioned by NAB at all,” he added.

“This is the most comprehensive NRO any government has ever given to itself. The four-year tenure of the NAB chairman has been … replaced with a lifetime appointment, not just an extension. It is a reward to the current chairman for his ruthless persecution of opposition on the orders of Imran Khan.”

Read more Opposition calls for debating NAB ordinance in NA

Abbasi also claimed that now the government could appoint judges. “The appointed accountability judges will have the powers and perks of a high court judge. This will help the PTI government to appoint blue-eyed judges to get verdicts of their choice.”

Earlier, Planning Minister Asad Umar told reporters in Islamabad that the amendment to the NAB laws were an attempt to steer the bureau to its actual purpose – maintaining checks and balances on those at the helm of affairs and making decisions.

He said that NAB was formed even though other institutions such as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) existed, as all the other institutions were subordinates to the government. “This is why it was decided to bring NAB back to its purpose; an institution that could keep a watch on the government and the politicians,” he added.

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