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October 9, 2012

Whose interest does bill serve?

National

October 9, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The PPP government’s ‘National Accountability Commission Act 2012’ says no person involved in corruption or corrupt practices can be arrested by the investigation agency even if there is evidence against him and will be sentenced to merely seven years if the looted money is not recovered and for three years if it is recovered.
In the new draft, the PPP government has entirely changed the mutual legal assistance provision of the previous law. The new law says that no action will be taken against a person if 10 years have passed since he committed the offence.
According to this law, even if the new commission will have all the evidence of corruption against a politician or bureaucrat, it will not be authorised to arrest him and if the accused opts for returning the looted money, he will not be touched. According to the new law, a sitting minister, an MNA or an MPA will be disqualified only for two years for holding any public office.
The chairman of the commission will be appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. If both the PM and opposition leader fail to reach a consensus name, they will send their respective nominees to the National Assembly’s parliamentary committee on Law and Justice, which will confirm one name. But, if the committee fails to decide, only the prime minister will nominate two new persons and the committee would choose one of them. If the committee again fails, the first nominee in the list sent by the prime minister will be considered final.
The judges in the new accountability courts will be appointed by the president in ‘consultation’ with the chief justice of the high court concerned. There will be a probing agency namely National Accountability Commission Investigation Agency which will enjoy as much power as investigators of other agencies or the powers explained in the law.
No person cooperating with the agency will

be arrested in any case no matter whatever solid evidence is available against him. If corruption is proved against him and looted money is not recovered, he will be sentenced to only seven years imprisonment. If he is a politician, he can contest elections after five years of his release and if he is a government servant, he will be dismissed from service. However, if the person accused of corruption gets ready to return the whole looted money before the judgment of the court and his plea bargain is accepted by the commission, he will not be punished but will also become eligible to contest elections simply after two years of acceptance of his plea bargain.
According to the PPP’s proposed new law, there will be no punishment to members of the federal or provincial governments for any acts they have done in ‘good faith’.Under international cooperation and requests for mutual legal assistance, the federal government or the commission can only do the following as per new law; a)- have evidence taken, documents, articles, assets or proceeds produced and
b)- Transferred to Pakistan any such evidence, documents, articles, assets or proceeds realised from the disposal of such articles or assets.
Whereas, according to the existing clause for international cooperation and requests for mutual legal assistance, much more can be done. The Section 21 of the NAB Ordinance reads as 21. -: The NAB chairman or any officer authorised by the federal government may request a foreign state to do [any or all of] the following acts in accordance with the law of such state:—
(a) have evidence taken, or documents or other articles produced;
(b) obtain and execute search warrants or other lawful instruments authorising search for things relevant to investigation or proceedings in Pakistan believed to be located in that state, and if found, seize them;
(c) Freeze of assets by whatever processes are lawfully available in that state, to the extent to which the assets are believed on reasonable grounds to be situated in that state;
(d) Confiscate articles and forfeit assets to the extent to which the articles or assets, as the case may be, are believed to be located in that state;
(e) Transfer to Pakistan any such evidence, documents, things articles, assets or proceeds realised from the disposal of such articles or assets.
(f) Transfer in custody to Pakistan a person detained in that state who consents to assist Pakistan in the relevant investigation or proceedings.
(g) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984 (PO 10 of 1984) or any other law for the time being in force all evidence, documents or any other material transferred to Pakistan by a foreign government shall be receivable as evidence in legal proceedings under this Ordinance 2[and] 3 (h) notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained hereinabove, the NAB chairman may, on such terms and conditions as he deems fit, employ any person or organisation, whether in Pakistan or abroad, for detecting, tracing or identifying assets acquired by an accused in connection with an offence under this ordinance, and secreted or hoarded abroad, or for repatriation to Pakistan of such assets.