Wanted a non-controversial NAB chairman

Opposition and the Bar have in one voice rejected the Ordinance

M Ziauddin October 09, 2021
The writer served as executive editor of The Express Tribune from 2009 to 2014

The system of consultation between the leaders of the house and the opposition in the National Assembly for the appointment to the offices that demanded adherence to strict neutrality in carrying out the responsibilities by those who held these offices was introduced to eliminate the possibility of the element of conflict of interest favouring the sitting government if these appointments were to remain its sole prerogatives.

But the incumbent government by extending the tenure of the incumbent NAB Chairman through an innocuous sounding rule to the effect has turned the system on its head through an otherwise reformist Ordinance rendering in the process the element of conflict of interest in its favour. Under the existing rules, in case no replacement is named before the expiry of the tenure of the sitting NAB Chairman, the Deputy Chairman would act in his place until a new one is appointed. But the Deputy Chairman has conveniently resigned in the meantime.

Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi has signed an Ordinance amending Sub-section b of Section 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) to grant extension in the tenure of the incumbent NAB chairman by excluding the word “non-extendable” from the statue that enables the President to extend his tenure until a new one is appointed. This eliminates any say of the opposition in the ‘extension’ even if it were to cover another full term rendering the element of conflict of interest overwhelmingly favouring the sitting government as the incumbent NAB Chairman has been seen to have remained on the right side of the government all through the last three years.

Interestingly, while retaining the proviso that makes consultation between the opposition leader and the leader of the house in the National Assembly on the appointment of NAB chairman, the Ordinance states that the President would consult both of them which would mean no direct interaction between the leaders of the house and opposition.

And that perhaps was the main reason for the entire legal rigmarole to which the government has had to resort to for the appointment of a new Chairman of NAB via a part of the fresh Ordinance which eliminated the possibility of the ‘Sadiq and Amin’ Prime Minister being seen personally consulting with the Opposition leader who is accused of being corrupt!

The opposition and the Bar have in one voice rejected the Ordinance pertaining to the ‘extension’ part of the incumbent or the process of new appointment for the post. Information secretary of PPP-Parliamentarians Shazia Marri has said the government’s decision to extend the tenure of NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal through a presidential ordinance is tantamount to distorting the constitution and law of the country. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb has termed the ordinance a black law and vowed to challenge it at appropriate forums. ANP has also rejected the extension through the ordinance and described the decision in violation of the Constitution. Bar has called it draconian.

Pro-government features of the Ordinance which in a way could be regarded as positively reformist as well include:

Exclusion of the federal and provincial cabinets and collective decisions of the committees or sub-committees, Council of Common Interests, National Economic Council, National Finance Commission, Executive Committee of National Economic Council, Central Development Working Party, Provincial Development Working Party, Departmental Development Working Party and State Bank of Pakistan from the ambit of NAB.

All matters pertaining to Federal, Provincial or Local taxation, other levies or imposts, including refunds, or loss of exchequer pertaining to taxation will be dealt with in accordance with the revenue or banking laws and will be transferred from the accountability courts to the courts of competent jurisdiction.

NAB cannot proceed against any person or entity who, or transaction in relation thereto, which are not directly or indirectly connected with the holder of a public office… procedural lapses in any public or governmental work, project or scheme, unless it is shown that a holder of public office or any other person has been conferred or has received any monetary or other material benefit from that particular public or governmental work.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2021.

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