Pros and cons of NAB ordinance

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IGNORING stiff opposition to the move, the Government, on Wednesday, promulgated the National Accountability Bureau Amendment Ordinance (NAO) 2021, paving the way for incumbent Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal to continue to perform his duties as head of the institution till the federal government develops consensus for his replacement besides taking away some of the powers of the Bureau that were being viewed with concern by some circles.

As against the original law, which envisaged only one-term for the Chairman, the amended ordinance provides for a four-year extension in the tenure.

Amendments to NAB law were long due and even the Opposition too wanted to amend the law but this could not be done due to lack of consensus and political wrangling.

However, the latest move is being opposed and understandably so as a good thing has been done in a wrong manner, bypassing Parliament and without taking the political opposition on board.

The timing and scope of the amendments were also important as the ordinance came a day before the end of term of the incumbent Chairman.

The focus of the news briefing by two federal ministers on the issue also confirmed that it was mostly about continuation of the incumbent head of the anti-graft body and that the Government has no intention to consult the Leader of the Opposition Mian Shahbaz Sharif on the matter despite the fact that there was, as yet, no proven allegation against him.

The Information Minister even came with a strange demand that the Opposition should remove Shahbaz from the post of Leader of the Opposition if it wanted to be consulted on the issue of appointment of a new Chairman.

The major opposition parties of PPP and PML (N) have, therefore, outrightly rejected the ordinance and announced to use all legal and parliamentary tools to oppose it, saying that it was based on the mala-fide intention and it is an NRO brought by Prime Minister Imran Khan to cover up three years of black deeds and thefts.

No doubt, vast and unrestrained powers exercised by NAB were impacting decision-making processes in the Government as the bureaucracy was not taking any risk because of fear of the NAB.

There was, therefore, need to rationalize these powers but the blanket exemption given to all important offices and forums – federal and provincial cabinets and their committees/sub-committees, CCI, NEC, NFC, ECNEC,CDWP, PDWP, SBP, bureaucracy and private businesses and personnel – is appalling as it raises questions as to who else is to be held accountable and for what.

Similarly, accountability courts and judges have widely been criticized for their partisan conduct and with this in view depriving the accused to get bail from higher courts amounts to gross injustice and smacks of the desire to victimize the accused.

 

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