Opposition ready to pass govt’s NAB bill ‘as it is’

Dawn

ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly panel on Wednesday deferred consideration of three important bills, with the opposition members surprising many by declaring that it was ready to pass the government’s National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill ‘as it is’.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice met here under the chairmanship of Riaz Fatyana, as three important bills — National Accounta­bility (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 (Ordinance No XXVII of 2019), Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission, Ordinance No XXIII of 2019 and International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Ordinance No VI of 2020 — were on the agenda.

When the amendment bill related to curtailing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) powers in cases against businessmen was about to be taken up, the law secretary informed the standing committee that the ministry did not want discussion on the bill in the Wednesday meeting though Shah Nawaz Ranjha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said he had no objection if the bill was passed and Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party said the opposition was ready to pass the bill ‘as it is’.

However, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Malik Ehsanullah Tiwana said the opposition’s stance made the government think if it was going to commit a mistake. Another MNA from the ruling PTI then criticised the law ministry’s “attitude” and insisted that there must be a discussion when the bill was on the agenda.

NA panel defers consideration of three bills after law minister’s message

NA committee chairman Riaz Fatyana said a message had been received from Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem who had some personal engagement but he wanted discussion on the bill in his presence.

The NAB (second amendment) bill is being brought as NAB Ordinance, 2019, meant to provide relief to businessmen by excluding their cases pertaining to “federal or provincial taxation, levies or imposts” within the purview of the accountability law and transferring the existing trials from the accountability courts to the criminal courts dealing with such offences had lapsed on April 26. The ordinance had not only taken care of the business community but also of bureaucrats and politicians to some extent as it redefined the terms “misuse of authority” and “acts done in good faith”.

When the ordinance curtailing NAB powers pertaining to action against businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians had been promulgated by the government in December last year, it was termed “Mother of All NROs”.

The opposition parties had made a hue and cry over the government’s act of promulgating the ordinance accusing the ruling PTI of taking another U-turn on its slogan of across-the-board accountability though later not only agreed to hold negotiations with the government as some politicians also claimed relief under the ordinance.

The committee also deferred consideration of the whistleblower bill and ICJ review and reconsideration bill.

Members of the NA committee and movers including Mohammad Farooq Azam Malik, Malik Mohammad Ehsan Ullah Tiwana, Sher Ali Arbab, Shunila Ruth, Ch Mehmood Bashir Virk, Usman Ibrahim, Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, Syed Hussain Tariq, Dr Nafeesa Shah, Aliya Kamran, Syed Naveed Qamar, besides law secretary and other officials attended the meeting.

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