Deadlocked

 
July 12, 2020

There appears to be a never-ending deadlock between the government and the opposition regarding amendments to NAB laws. Even now there is remote possibility of introducing any legislation about this...

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There appears to be a never-ending deadlock between the government and the opposition regarding amendments to NAB laws. Even now there is remote possibility of introducing any legislation about this in the ongoing session of the National Assembly. There appears to be no contact between the PTI and the opposition parties to hammer out suitable amendments to NAB laws. Ideally, by now the government should have shared some draft proposals and the opposition also should have done likewise, but both sides appear to be showing both a sluggish pace and reluctance to move forward for an amicable conclusion to this long-drawn process. This matter has been pending for over six months now. The last we heard about it was in May when the government reiterated its resolve to not compromise on the powers of NAB to continue the “accountability process”.

The government must realize that to reduce the impression of selective accountability there is an urgent need to clip at least some of the powers of the anti-corruption watchdog. Rather than working in this direction, the governments and its ministers seem to be interested in creating more controversies by expressing their displeasure about the current NFC Award and the 18th Amendment which ensure some autonomy to provinces. For both the government and the opposition it is better not to indulge in blame game while the country’s economy is reeling under the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic. If NAB law is not amended, the time will not be far away in future when the PTI may find itself embroiled in cases that will be difficult to defend in accountability courts in the presence of nearly unrestrained power to NAB and its chairman. As per opposition allegations, NAB has been violating its own protocols and SOPs and we have seen people being dragged to courts and then to jails, and bails being denied on flimsy charges. All this does not bode well for businesses, for democracy, and for the government itself in the long run.

If the government and the opposition keep showing the irresponsible attitude they have been displaying with regard to NAB laws, this procrastination may lead to serious consequences in future. Now an impression is being created about the government’s consistent laggardness in constructive and useful legislation. For the past 20 years since Gen Pervez Musharraf converted the Ehtesab Act 1997 into the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) in 1999, all governments failed to make any positive changes to the NAB laws, with the result that NAB is haunting everyone – barring those who are part of the incumbent governments. Even the Supreme Court has directed that amendments be made into NAB laws, so there is apparently no excuse to delay it further. We hope to see accountability in this country – but that accountability must come with fairness and justice, not vendetta and partisanship.



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