WEB DESK: The much-needed amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law, hanging fire since the last PPP government’s rule, are finally under discussion at the appropriate forum.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice has constituted a sub-committee comprising representatives from the PML-N, PPP, PTI, MQM and JUI (F) and headed by PPP’s Naveed Qamar to make necessary recommendations aimed at putting in place an effective and impartial accountability mechanism. The issue has assumed urgency in the wake of various corruption scandals involving persons in high places, though for the same reason it may not be easy for the committee to arrive at a consensus.
It may be recalled that an accountability law introduced by the PPP government had kept sitting in Parliament for want of required support as it included certain immunity clauses for the benefit of some ruling party members. And during the last three years of its rule, the present government too has shown little interest in making necessary amendments in the law, introduced by the Musharraf regime, to ensure across-the-board accountability.
In fact, even though in its existing form, the NAB is not completely free of the executive’s influence, an inadvertent step on sensitive toes can get into trouble. Just last year, for example, when complying with the Supreme Court orders the Bureau had submitted a list of alleged corruption cases involving several high profile figures, including the Prime Minister, Punjab Chief Minister, former premiers, ministers and senior bureaucrats, the government had reacted angrily. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid accusing the NAB of defaming people had threatened to clip its wings, and speaking in the same vein the Prime Minister promised to make changes in the NAB law.
The law surely needs changes though not in the direction indicated by the government. The PTI has proposed important amendments such as doing away with the plea bargain provision, which is as unfair as can be. Availed by many, the provision allows unscrupulous individuals to return less than a quarter of the ill-gotten money and keep the rest while ordinary people tried in courts for far smaller crimes get rigorous punishments.
Equally, if not more, important proposals concern the appointment of the NAB chairman and introduction of transparency in the bureau’s working. A sensible suggestion before the parliamentary committee is that like the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner, an agreement between the government and the Leader of the Opposition is necessary for the selection of NAB chairman.
And for the purposes of transparency, the NAB must present detailed annual reports of its performance before the Parliament. In short, the accountability organisation is expected to be completely freed from political pressures to do its job without fear or favour, and also made answerable before parliament for its acts of omission or commission. Hopefully, the parliamentary committee will come up to these expectations.
Source: Business Recorder