It was reported on Wednesday that the National Assembly passed a bill that aims to further limit the scope of inquiry of the National Accountability Bu­reau (NAB) by proposing that all corruption cases involving an amount be­low Rs 500 million would not come into its purview. In addition to this, the bill also proposes that the federal government, and not the President, should have the power to appoint judges of accountability courts.

The PTI has objected to these changes, and while a lot of the rhetoric emerging from their camp is politically motivated by the recent tussles with the coalition government, it remains to be seen what explanation the government puts forth for introducing these amendments. This is the second time the law has been al­tered by the coalition government since coming into power in April—previously changes were introduced to the anti-corruption law in May.

Apart from the main amendment where the NAB will now only deal with mega scandals, there are a number of other changes that appear to be positive. To en­sure that investigations remain focused and do not veer off on tangents, the ac­countability body can only summon those people and documents relevant to the inquiry or investigation. Earlier, the NAB chairman could call “any person” or request “any document” during an inquiry. More importantly, the chairman of NAB, with approval from the court, could direct any suspicious person’s surveil­lance and seek the assistance of any government agency. This section has now been omitted and on the face of it, this is a good development considering the excesses that have been committed in the past, especially when it comes to sur­veillance and invading privacy.

However, PTI senators along with other opposition members staged a walkout when the amendment bill was being passed in the upper house. The PTI has chal­lenged the changes made to the anti-graft legislation in the Supreme Court of Pak­istan, which is expected to take up the case soon. There is no denying that some of these changes would be for the better, but the issue with constantly introducing amendments without forging consensus is that there is no permanence when it comes to policy-making. Unilateral changes are of little help because when a new government comes in, it will introduce its own set of amendments. Decisions that are consequential in nature, especially when it relates to the country’s main ac­countability body, should be reached through dialogue despite the hurdles in place