NAB in focus

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THE Supreme Court, on Wednesday, granted the Federation
three months to decide on Section 25 (a) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 or it would step in and adjudicate as per law and merit. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmad said amending the NAB laws was parliament’s prerogative, adding that the government should not prolong legislation on the matter.
Section 25 (a) pertains to plea bargain empowering the NAB Chairman to accept offer of ‘Voluntary Return’ of ill-gotten money of an accused person, particularly a corrupt public servant. The issue has remained under consideration of the apex court since long, raising a number of questions over Chairman’s authority to accept the offer under voluntary return from an accused person saying such powers can only be exercised by a judicial forum. There is also general perception that the provision amounts to whitening of the ill-gotten money and giving a clean chit to an accused on return of part of what he digested through illegal means. On earlier occasions, the court also expressed dismay that after payment of voluntary return, the person goes scot-free without any stigma on his career and can contest the election and or can continue in public office. It is, however, regrettable that despite serious reservations expressed by the top court and wide criticism by other segments of society, the practice continues. The court has now asked NAB to stop offering plea bargains until Parliament had exercised its power and legislated on the issue. According to reports, there are already consultations between the treasury and the opposition benches on the issue of amending the NAB law and now that a deadline for legislation on the provision of plea bargain has been given, one hopes the entire process of improving the accountability law would be completed during this timeframe.