Revision of NAB law demanded by PML-N, PPP: Shah Qureshi

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MULTAN, Dec 29 (DNA): Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi clarified on
Sunday that the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 –
promulgated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a
presidential ordinance bringing momentous alterations to the
accountability law known as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999
– was not aimed at providing an National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO),
relief or protection to anybody.

In his talk to the media in Multan, the foreign minister pointed out
that the revision of the anti-graft agency’s jurisdiction was demanded
by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N).

“The amendment has not been made to protect corruption […] on one hand,
it was being said that investors were not investing [in the country ,”
he said.

Qureshi lamented over opposition’s claim of dysfunctional economic
(policies of the government), and putting resistance to economic affairs
at the same time.

“Government’s measures are criticised for economic stability [of the
state],” he added, while regretting that criticism without thorough
study of a subject has become a norm in our society.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Saturday received an application
against the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019,
promulgated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a
presidential ordinance on Friday that made momentous alterations to the
accountability law known as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

The application pleaded with the apex court to immediately order
suspending the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019,
while claiming that the amendment was against Article 25 of the
Constitution, and an attempt to protect the corruption of ministers and
government officials.

According to the amendment, the NAB can now only take up cases involving
corruption or corrupt practices exceeding an amount of Rs500 million,
and no action will be launched against government employees in case of
departmental deficiencies.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this ordinance or any other law
for the time being in force, no inquiry, investigation, arrest or
proceedings against a government servant, under this ordinance, either
as an accused or witness, shall be initiated or conducted by NAB without
prior approval of the scrutiny committee,” said a new clause inserted in
Section 33-F of the ordinance.

Another amendment barred the accountability watchdog from confiscating
property of any public office holder without prior approval of the
scrutiny committee.

According to an amendment, “Inquiries and investigations shall stand
transferred to the respective authorities or departments which
administer the relevant laws of taxation, levies and imposts in
question.

“Trials shall stand transferred from the relevant accountability courts
to the criminal courts which deal with offences under the respective
laws pertaining to taxation, levies and imposts in question.”

Furthermore, another amendment required the NAB chairman to devise a
“complaint redressal mechanism for attending complaints against NAB” and
present a quarterly report on its performance to the federal government.

In a summary sent by the law ministry to the federal cabinet, the
government claimed that the NAB was dealing a large number of inquiries
and investigation including handling of mega corruption cases.

“Under the existing regime a number of inquiries have been initiated
against the holders of public office and government servants on account
of procedural lapses where no actual corruption is involved. This has
enhanced NAB’s burden and has also affected working of the federal
government.”

It further pointed that the NAB had assumed parallel jurisdiction and
was inquiring into matters pertaining to taxation, imposition of levies
and interference in the domain of taxation regulatory bodies.

“It is therefore felt necessary to define through the subject amendments
the operational domain of NAB,” it added.

The anti-graft agency’s jurisdiction over matters relating to tax, stock
exchange and IPOs has been curtailed. The Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and
building control authorities will be the sole authorities tasked to act
on all such matters. DNA