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October 13, 2017

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New NAB law remains a far cry

New NAB law remains a far cry

ISLAMABAD: The parliamentary body, which was constituted to overhaul the NAB law, is badly divided as leading political parties, including PML-N, PPP and PTI, have taken opposite positions, making it difficult for any consensus on a new accountability system.

Sources in the committee, which last met on Tuesday last, sound really disappointed and confided to The News that the PML-N and PTI had got cold feet on the issue of extending the NAB law to judges and generals whereas the PPP wants the provinces to have their independent accountability apparatus as was being pursued by the Sindh government.

These sources said that the PTI had told the committee that it was coming up with its own bill on accountability system.

“No one seems to be serious to have a robust accountability system,” a committee source desperately said, adding that he sees hardly any chance of a consensus among the political parties on the issue.

Parliamentary work for anew but robust accountability mechanism remained the least priority during the last nine years of the PPP and the PML-N governments.

The real challenge for the parliamentary committee remained to develop a consensus for across the board accountability i.e. covering all including judges and generals. Sometime back the present committee did propose that like members of parliament, all civil and government servants, including bureaucrats, judges and generals, would also be bound to make their annual wealth statements public. But now even on this point, there is dithering on part of the most of the committee members.

“Now only a couple of PPP members insist that the new law should be extended to judges and generals also but others are not interested,” a source said.

Otherwise, there has been an agreement that unlike the “draconian” aspect of the present NAB law where those taken into custody by the Bureau are not entitled to any bail for 90 days, the new law should give the right of bail to the accused.

There has also been an agreement that the existing provision of “voluntary return” would be done away with whereas plea bargain will be allowed only by the decision of the court. For those whose plea bargain is accepted, will however be disqualified for life for any government job or public office.

The present parliamentary committee — comprising members from both the houses, and constituted several months back to evolve new law for anti-corruption state apparatus — had agreed during its first few sittings to replace the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with a National Accountability Commission (NAC).

It was deliberated and decided too that the proposed National Accountability Commission would not be chairman centric but would be supervised and overseen by an independent commission. The term of the NAC chairman will be three years as against the four-year tenure enjoyed by the NAB chairman.

The committee had also discussed the definition of corruption and corrupt practices, and recommended certain changes and a few additions.

Right from its initial deliberations, the committee has been discussing the issue of across-the-board accountability to bring generals and judges under the umbrella of civil anti-corruption bodies but it remains undecided.

In the present system, judges and generals are excluded from the purview of the National Accountability Law. They were excluded with the argument that both the institutions have their own internal accountability system.

The committee with 20 members was formed by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on January 5 to amend the controversial NAB law. The committee was given three months to prepare and present its report to the Speaker regarding the necessary amendments to the NAO, 1999.

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