ISLAMABAD: The opposition has introduced two separate bills in the National Assembly seeking major amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, to empower parliament to recommend the name of NAB chairman instead of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
Through an amendment, it sought curtailment of NAB’s powers to make it accountable to parliament and give full authority to courts of law to decide about plea bargain deals instead of NAB chief or officials.
The bill called National Accountability (amendment) Act, 2016, was introduced by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders Arif Alvi, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Ayesha Gulalai while the other, with the same title, was moved by PPP lawmaker Imran Leghari.
The bill introduced by the PTI suggested that the NAB chairman should be appointed by parliament instead of the president on the recommendation or consent of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the lower house.
At present under NAB’s laws, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition recommend one out of three proposed names for the post of NAB chairman and send it to the president for appointment.
The bill suggested that the NA speaker should form a parliamentary committee comprising equal representation from the treasury and opposition to be nominated by respective parliamentary leaders.
“The total strength of the parliamentary committee shall be 12 members and one-third of it shall be from Senate,” the bill said.
The bill also sought curtailment of NAB chairman’s term from five to four years and said that the chairman should be appointed for four years on such terms and conditions as might be determined by the president and should not be removed from the office except by a judge of Supreme Court.
Two bills seeking major changes to accountability ordinance tabled by opposition in NA
The mover of the PTI’s bill said the amendments sought to ensure that the appointment of the chairman was made non-controversial and the process must include an advice from parliament as well as scrutiny and selection by a committee of the parliament, a process somewhat similar to the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner.
PTI leader Arif Alvi said that NAB should present its annual report to parliament so that the parliament could monitor NAB’s performance.
“The Supreme Court has been asking NAB about mega corruption cases and NAB is hiding facts. Today NAB’s reports revealed that these cases are in hundreds. If NAB reports were sent to the parliament on a regular basis, mega corruption cases would not have piled up,” he said.
The bill moved by the PTI also required that a final decision about plea bargain deals should be taken by the relevant accountability court instead of the NAB chairman or NAB’s senior officials.
“In plea bargain deals, NAB officials are tempted for reducing the amount to be paid by the accused,” Mr Alvi said.
“If any accused cooperates with NAB and agrees to return the looted/plundered money, the payable amount should be decided by the court,” he said.
One of the proposed amendments to the bills is related to withdrawal of cases. At present, cases are withdrawn by NAB’s Executive Board, but the mover of the bill said: “One of the proposed amendments suggests that for withdrawal of any case the decision should be made by the court instead of senior NAB officials.
The bill moved by the PPP lawmaker sought curtailment of NAB’s powers to confine its purview only to the federal government departments and not to the provincial government departments.
However, a similar bill introduced by PPP’s Senator Taj Haider is already under debate in the parliament. It was tabled soon after the arrest of PPP leader Dr Asim Hussain and senior officials of the Sindh government in corruption cases.
The PPP’s bill, moved by Imran Leghari, said: “The 18th constitution amendment provided for the greater autonomy of the federating units and for residuary subject of accountability there is need to constitute autonomous accountability bureaus at provincial levels and legislation to this effect is already under way in provinces.”
He said that it was, therefore, expedient that while the provincial accountability bureaus dealt with such cases within their respective provinces, NAB should perform its duty more effectively in federal government departments.
“The bill seeks to delete provisions extending the jurisdiction of NAB to departments of provincial governments from NAB Ordinance, 1999,” he said.