PTI govt set to introduce new anti-graft laws | Pakistan Today

PTI govt set to introduce new anti-graft laws

–Bill to establish whistleblower protection commission drafted as per PM Imran’s instructions

–Whistleblowers to be rewarded 20% of recovered amount in cases of effective information

–Formation of Legal Aid and Justice Authority to facilitate the poor in criminal cases

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is all set to introduce new anti-corruption laws, for the establishment of Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission and Legal Aid and Justice Authority, as the Ministry of Law and Justice has drafted new bills following the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to well-placed sources, the ruling party is hopeful to grab support of major political parties in the parliament on the proposed anti-graft laws after conceding the chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif.

They said that the Ministry of Law and Justice has drafted new bills, as per the instructions of PM Imran, which will be presented in the parliament for approval soon.

The introduction of the proposed laws will help in ending corruption from the federal and provincial ministries, divisions, autonomous bodies, the sources said, adding that the establishment of the proposed Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission will help in taking direct action against the corrupt government officials.

Also, a central Mutual Legal Assistance Authority will be established to end money laundering and to retrieve looted wealth from abroad while a Legal Aid and Justice Authority will also be formed, sources said.

WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION COMMISSION:

A copy of the draft of the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Bill 2018 disclosed that under the proposed statute, a whistleblower will be able to provide information to an independent commission regarding any corrupt practice.

The commission, after assessing the information, would forward the same to the NAB, FIA (in complaints regarding money laundering), SECP (pertaining to public listed companies), and provincial anti-corruption departments.

Similarly, the commission will become the complainant before these authorities while keeping the identity of the whistleblower confidential to afford protection for them. Likewise, the confidentiality of the whistleblower is a step in the direction towards witness protection and the identities will not be disclosed unless the whistleblower itself desires to go public.

In case any recovery is affected in view of the information provided by the whistleblowers, he/she would get 20% of the recovered amount, the draft suggests, and adds that in case of more than one whistleblower, 20% reward amount will be shared equitably apportioned between them in terms of the level of contribution.

Moreover, under the new law, the whistleblower will be offered protection from dismissal or removal from office, disciplinary proceedings, threat, intimidation, etc. Anonymous whistleblower information will not be entertained, the draft proposed.

The commission will have all the powers under the Civil Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Code with a view to obtaining information from any office, authority, department or person. In case of submission of false information, the informant will be visited with imprisonment of two years or fine up to two lac rupees, or both.

In view of the new statute, the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2017 legislated by the previous government may be repealed because under the 2017 act, the information could only be provided to the head of the particular department or institution and it would be left to his sole discretion so as to proceed with any complaint or otherwise. Under the KP statute with regard to a whistleblower, the law is only applicable to ongoing investigations.

Members of the whistleblower commission will be appointed by the government. The eligibility criteria for the appointment of members is given in the section 4 (4) of the new statute, which reads, “No person shall be recommended for appointment as a Member unless that person is known for his integrity, expertise, eminence and experience for not less than ten years in any relevant field including industry, commerce, economics, finance, law, accountancy, public administration, or service of Pakistan.”

The federal government will also appoint a chairman of the new commission.

MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE:

According to draft of Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, 2018, the new statute — which was being debated for the last nine years — will regulate the procedure for rendering and soliciting MLA in criminal matters by Pakistan.

The main reason for the foreign government not complying with Pakistan’s requests for asset or foreign asset recovery has been the non-availability of MLA law, the proposal says, adding that there are statutes such as the NAB Ordinance, FBR laws, Extradition Act, the SECP statute, the AML dispensation, PECA and the Anti-Narcotics laws which partly provides for the same.

It argues that the main complaint of the foreign governments is that there is no central authority which processes MLA requests made by foreign governments. The lack of a central MLA authority is also one of the objections in FATF regime, it says.

The draft further said that through the new statute, the federal government will appoint the interior secretary or any other officer of the government in the central MLA authority in view of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and United Nations Conventions Against Transnational Organised Crime.

Similarly, once the MLA law is passed, it will facilitate the stolen asset recovery from abroad and address one of the FATF objections, the proposal suggests and adds that the central MLA authority under the new statute will be focused with regard to sending and soliciting MLA requests.

LEGAL AID AND JUSTICE AUTHORITY:

A copy of the draft of Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2018 says that its purpose is to establish the Legal Aid and Justice Authority to provide legal, financial or other assistance and access to justice to the poor and vulnerable segments of the society in criminal cases.

According to the draft, those who are unable to afford legal representation or pay for bail amounts or penalties/fines in criminal cases, except those charged with heinous offences, will be able to apply for legal aid. Women, children and transgender persons will be given preference with respect to “sexual gender-based violent offences (SGBV)”, it adds.

The Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2018 also said that the authority will have a board to administer it with a representation of the federation and all the provinces. It will mainly consist the federal minister for human rights, attorney general of Pakistan and advocate generals of each province, secretaries of human rights, finance, law and justice, Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman, and one prominent female social worker, the proposal reads.



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