Anti-corruption bill controversy heats up

The government failed to seek the opposition’s endorsement for the proposed law.

Zia Khan September 16, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over a piece of legislation that advocates the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) replacement with a ‘milder’ commission intensified on Thursday when the government failed to seek the opposition’s endorsement for the proposed law.

Members of the National Assembly’s standing committee on law and justice from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) boycotted the panel’s proceedings after their suggestions were not accommodated in the bill.

The committee was meeting here ahead of a National Assembly session scheduled to start next week.

On the agenda were four notes of dissent submitted by the PML-N members. But they walked out in protest against what they termed the government’s unserious attitude.

Later, PML-N’s Zahid Hamid said his party had summoned the record of NAB cases dropped during the tenure of the bureau’s acting chairman.

Hamid alleged that the prime minister had incorrectly claimed on the floor of the house that a consensus had been achieved on the bill.

He said that the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar and other parliamentarians had repeatedly denied the prime minister’s assertion.

The PML-N, according to Hamid, will not support the bill unless “four of its suggestions are incorporated” into it.  A key demand of the party is the inclusion of a serving Supreme Court judge as chairman of the proposed National Accountability Commission (NAC).

According to the bill drafted by the law ministry, any person qualified to be a Supreme Court judge can be appointed as the commission’s chairman.

The second dissent note objects to the abridged definition of “mutual assistance and international cooperation in dealing with corruption”.  The PML-N favours the retention of the clause in the NAB law into the new bill.

The third objection is related to applying the law from 1947 and not from 1985 as proposed by the government.

The party’s last objection seeks omission of an unusual provision that recommends immunity for holders of public office.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2010.


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