PM rules out retreat on new NAB law


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday vowed not to retreat or succumb to any pressure over the issue of the newly promulgated National Accountability (second amendment) Ordinance 2019 and said that the amendments — which benefit legislators, bureaucrats and the business community — were made keeping in view the opposition’s longstanding demand.

The prime minister said that following the promulgation of the ordinance, the stock market went up rapidly. He said his government had decided to give full benefit of the ordinance to the business community.

The prime minister stated this while presiding over a meeting of the media strategic committee comprising Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Minister for Communication Murad Saeed, Minister for Education Shafqat Meh­mood, Senator Faisal Javed, National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf and PM’s legal aide Dr Babar Awan.

In a private TV show, Shafqat Mehmood said the government needed the opp­osition’s support to get the ordinance passed by the two houses of parliament, especially the Senate where the opposition is in a majority.

Minister says government needs opposition’s support to get the ordinance passed by parliament

According to a source privy to the meeting, the prime minister said he wou­ld not surrender or retreat on the issue of the new ordinance and defend it at any forum. He stressed the need for a consensus between the treasury and opposition benches on the matter.

The prime minister was of the view that the government had made history by amending the controversial NAB law through presidential ordinance whi­ch was promulgated by Presi­dent Dr Arif Alvi on Dec 26.

It has been observed that due to fear of NAB, bureaucrats have stopped signing official files and refused to take new initiatives that brought the government machinery to a standstill. According to the source, the prime minister had in several meetings lamented the controversial NAB law as well as the bureau’s officials for creating undue harassment. Similarly, the business community had also complained to the prime minister and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa about the NAB’s “threatening” attitude.

On the other hand, a NAB source said the anti-graft watchdog might challenge the new ordinance in a court of law.

NAB chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal said at a function on Monday that the bureau did not consider faces but cases and would not come under any pressure while holding corrupt people accountable for their misdeed. Talking about the new NAB ordinance, he said the anti-graft watchdog had already been sending tax-related cases to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for the last three months.

Foreign Minister and vice chairman of the ruling Pak­istan Tehreek-i-Insaf Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed in a statement that it was a longstanding demand of the opposition to amend the controversial NAB law and the new presidential ordinance would be placed before parliament for its approval.

Separately, at a function held to distribute Sehat [health] cards among transgender people on Monday, the prime minister said the government had amended the NAB law to provide ease to businessmen and industrialists. “We took this step for rapid economic growth,” he said, adding that the decision would boost the economy and create jobs. “2020 will be the year of progress in which the people will witness prosperity,” he added.

“The government spent 2019 in trying to stabilise the economy; it will create jobs, facilitate industries and improve ease of doing business in the upcoming year,” he maintained.

The source, who attended the meeting at the Prime Minister Office, said Mr Khan formed a committee to review the government’s flagship programmes launched during the last one-and-a-half years and those to be introduced in 2020. The committee comprises Asad Umar, Babar Awan, Murad Saeed and Moeed Yousuf. The first meeting of the committee will be held on Tuesday (today).

Later, Mr Awan said those who were criticising the new ordinance had not even gone through it.