Unlike the Fair Trial Bill for which the government drew support from friends and foes alike in the National Assembly, the new accountability bill still hangs in the balance with friction emerging even within the ruling alliance.
Understandably, the Fair Trial Bill received unanimous approval from the lower house. No such luck for the National Accountability Commission Bill 2012 though.
Both the bills were introduced by Law Minister Farooq H Naek on October 8, 2012.
The 13th National Assembly is nearing completion of its term and according to the tentative schedule, with only two more sessions left, the government is planning to table the bill in the upcoming session (January 14).
Sources in the National Assembly Secretariat told The Express Tribune that the government wants to get this bill passed prior to the completion of its term and there is a strong possibility that the bill will appear in the next session.
The government has not taken its allies into confidence with regards to the passage of the new accountability bill. Recent political developments and the arrival of Dr Tahirul Qadri in the country have apparently juggled equations between political parties.
Though President Asif Ali Zardari has contacted Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain, the party has not reversed its plan of joining Dr Qadri’s January-14 long march through the federal capital as yet.
It seems the MQM has perhaps made up its mind with regards to its future plan of action given that it sided with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the Senate to oppose another controversial legislation aimed at legalising black money.
In addition, another coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) also opposed the tax amnesty bill in the Senate the other day.
The MQM, sources say, has decided to stand against the accountability bill. When contacted to inquire MQM’s position regarding the bill in the upcoming session of the National Assembly, Syed Haider Abbas Rizvi replied, “Do not know yet.”
Similarly, the Awami National Party (ANP) has not taken any decision on whether or not to support the bill.
The PML-Q, like others, has reservations about the controversial bill and the government has not contacted the party till date.
“We have reservations over the bill and will not support the bill unless the government addresses our concerns,” PML-Q Information Secretary Senator Kamil Ali Agha told The Express Tribune.
Responding to another question, Agha said that “the government had not taken his party into confidence yet”.
Meanwhile, PML-N is still waiting for the government to honour its previous commitment that it will share the report of the National Assembly standing committee on law and justice.
“They [government] gave us a commitment to share the final report prior to presenting the bill in the house, however, it has not happened,” said Anusha Rehman from the PML-N.
Rehman, who is also member of the panel on law and justice, said the chances for approval of the controversial bill were limited. “I don’t think that the accountability bill will [become] a law,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2013.
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