NAB bills stuck in NA panel

The PTI-led government on Wednesday suffered another defeat at the hands of the opposition on the second and third amendment bills related to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) during the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice’s meeting.

Federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem arrived at the meeting half an hour late. Five members of the government were in attendance against 10 of the opposition.

After a heated debate on the draft legislation, the joint opposition demanded a vote on which the law minister walked out of the meeting.

The chairman of the committee, Riaz Fatyana, belonging to the ruling PTI, hastily adjourned the meeting.

The National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 was hotly debated during the meeting and opposition members bombarded the law minister with questions.

Read More: Abbasi terms NAB a ‘tool to convert people into turncoats’

PML-N MNA Rana Sanaullah said the collective decisions of the cabinet had been removed from the scope of NAB in the amendment bill and questioned which body would take action on them.

The law minister replied that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Anti-Corruption Establishment could act on the decisions of the cabinet. Sanaullah said the heads of both the departments were appointed by the government itself. “The heads of these institutions do not even have legal protection. It would have been better if these matters had remained with NAB,” he argued. The law minister replied that the NAB chairman had no protection.

PPP leader Naveed Qamar said opportunities were lost in the past and there was a need to take advantage of this chance to draft objective legislation without any shortcomings and loopholes.

Mahmood Bashir Virk said that the amendments made to the NAB law were not in good faith and based on mala fide.

He said the extension of the tenure of the NAB chairman was an example of this. He said that NAB amendments should be rejected. “If the government removes the condition of the NAB chairman’s extension, I would consider supporting these bills,” he added.

On the occasion, PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said the authority to issue ordinances existed only for extremely special circumstances.

“The ordinances issued for NAB were against the spirit of the Constitution,” he added.

He said if the NAB ordinance was withdrawn and the government came to the committee, the opposition and government could work on this legislation together.

He also questioned why the provincial chief justice was kept out of the power to appoint judges.

 “Under what rules, logic and precedents would retired judges get the same privileges as serving high court judges?”

Rafique also opposed the extension in the term of the NAB chairman. “Empowering the president means that the NAB chairman will be in the hands of the government,” he maintained.

“It was not possible for the post-2020 ministers and bureaucrats to survive under these new proposed laws and they will be overturned by the court in the first hearing.”

He said the NAB amendment bill needed to be discussed in the committee. Earlier, Alia Kamran said that the government wanted the opposition to walk out over the law minister’s absence and this important draft legislation was not discussed.

Mohsin Shah Nawaz Ranjha said the NAB amendment bill was an NRO (amenity) for the government.

The opposition members also demanded a committee vote on the NAB amendment bill.

At the protest and insistence of the opposition, the law minister walked out of the meeting saying that he had received an urgent call.

The chairman of the committee, seeing the delicate situation, adjourned the meeting, which was protested by members of the joint opposition. They described it as a victory for them.

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