Government mulling striking down Article 25-A of NAB law

The government is seriously considering striking down Article 25-A of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 that deals with voluntary return (plea bargain) after the top anti-graft body cleared Mushtaq Raisani, a former finance secretary of Balochistan.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Article must be struck down, as it has made the country a laughing stock in the world.

“No such law does exist anywhere else in the world and the only solution is to get rid of Article 25-A of NAB Ordinance,” he added.

In the wake of the controversy, he said that Senate chairman Raza Rabbani had referred the matter of plea bargain to Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration so that an appropriate legislation could be made.

“The committee is looking into the matter and then we will move an amendment to the Ordinance, and then it’s up to the government…I’m sure the government will support us as there is no other option,” he added.

He said that Supreme Court had also restrained NAB chairman from exercising the provision of voluntary returns (plea bargain) under Section 25 (a) of NAO, 1999. Babar accused NAB of enhancing corruption through Section 25 (a), adding in the first instance the chairman must be stopped from exercising this power, which he reiterated could be stopped only through a legislation.

Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, chairman Senate Standing Committee on Justice, said that he has convened the meeting of the standing committee on January 3, where the matter will be discussed in detail.

“The chairman Senate has referred the matter to law and justice committee with directives to look into Article-25 (A) which is related to plea bargain, and I think, the whole NAB Ordinance, should be looked into as it is full of flaws,” he added.

Former Justice Wajihuddin Ahmad said that plea bargain is also practised in the US while the UK also wants to introduce the system, but in Pakistan it is being misused for which the government should take appropriate mitigating measures.

Asked about the recent Balochistan case, he said the plea bargain between NAB and Mushtaq Raisani will not be approved by any accountability court.

He said that by striking a deal with Raisani who is accused of corruption of billions of rupees along with other big fish, cannot escape the wrath of the law.

“The NAB deal with Raisani is against the very concept of plea bargain as this deal has given a clean chit to others who were hand in glove with him…so there is a need to strengthen the law and stop its misuse – a law which facilitates the influential involved in corruption,” he added.

NAB initiated an inquiry into the illegal release of funds of local government department of Balochistan to Municipal Committees, ie, Khaliqabad and Muchh which fall in the constituency of Khalid Langove, the then Advisor to the Chief Minister Balochistan.

NAB spokesman rejected the accusation that the Bureau accepted Rs 2 billion plea bargain offer from Raisaini and clarified: “The Balochistan government had released approximately Rs 6 billion for local government departments, out of which Rs 2.31 billion were released for the Municipal Committee Muchh and Khaliqabad… therefore to give the Rs 40 billion embezzlement figure in this case is far from the truth”.

-Business Recorder