ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) is set to adopt the government-presented National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill “as it is”, a day after a Lower House panel deferred consideration of three important bills.
According to its schedule, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice was to adopt the legislation yesterday when it met under the chairmanship of Riaz Fatyana to discuss the 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.
However, during the session, when the committee was about to take up the amendment bill related to curtailing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) powers in cases against businessmen, the law secretary, Raja Naeem Akbar, said the ministry did not want a discussion on the bill in the meeting.
The secretary’s insisted on delaying the discussion even though Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said that the opposition was ready to pass the legislation “as it is”.
However, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MP Malik Ehsan Ullah Tiwana said that the opposition’s stance made the government think if it was going to commit a mistake. Another ruling MP then criticised the law ministry’s “attitude” and insisted that there must be a discussion when the bill was on the agenda.
Fatyana said that a message had been received from Law Minister Farogh Naseem who had some personal engagement but he wanted a discussion on the bill in his presence.
The NAB 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 civil servants 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, civil servants 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 the consideration of the whistleblower bill and ICJ review and reconsideration bill.