ISLAMABAD - Weeks long intense consultations by Prime Minister Iman Khan with key legal brains and political aides have culminated with the issuance of National Accountability (Amendment-II) Ordinance 2021. The new Presidential Ordinance green lighted by the Prime Minister was necessitated ostensibly to get over with the political debate regarding the appointment of new chairman of NAB because of the expiry of service contract of the incumbent chairman. The political debate on the national media had cropped up between the government and the opposition after statements made by some ministers that the prime minister does not desire to consult the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly as per constitutional requirement because of serious corruption references against him in the NAB. Thus, the government conceived the new NAB Ordinance which the opposition parties have rejected it as a black law and blamed the government for its alleged malafide. The main opposition party PML-N has expressed its fears that the government wants to kill two birds with one stone through this ordinance. Almost all the opposition parties are of the view that the PTI government which has been making tall claims about the opposition for seeking NRO is actually trying to get NRO for itself. On the other hand, the government insists that the new Ordinance would ensure rule of law in the country. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while rejecting the NAB Amendment Ordinance says that the extension to NAB Chairman’s term is not only illegal but has malicious intent as the government wants to save itself from accountability especially in the post-Pandora Papers stage. “The government wants to continue victimization of opposition while ensuring the prime minister, his family, government and cronies continue to be immune from accountability especially,” Bilawal Bhutto wrote on his Twitter account the other day. On the other hand, the government is defending the NAB Amendment Ordinance saying it would not only ensure rule of law but also pave the way for fast tracking cases of corruption in the country. According to Dr. Babar Awan, Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, the Ordinance would ensure supremacy of law in the country and could benefit opposition parties.
Federal Minister for Information Chaudhry Fawad Hussain says most of the amendments to the NAB ordinance which the opposition is criticising are part of those proposed and supported by them.
Fawad explained everyone agreed to give trial courts the right to bail, to remove tax cases from the ambit of the NAB and to change and strengthen the NAB’s judicial system.
“Therefore, we have brought technology into it. They (opposition parties) have no idea of reports. If they have any amendments, they can bring them in parliament, while the entire PTI is behind this NAB Ordinance,” he made it clear.
The minister said that whether it is NAB reforms or electoral reforms, the opposition has to oppose them: the opposition is a gathering of crying children and its only job is to cry.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib also defends the move, saying the reforms are a true reflection of the government’s strong commitment to strengthening the state institutions under the parliamentary democracy.
Farrukh says the law is silent in the case of deadlock on the appointment of the NAB chairman. Now, the president would initiate a dialogue with both the leaders of the House for the appointment and the matter would be referred to the parliamentary committee in the case of deadlock.
“We have followed the Constitution in this matter; if there is an issue regarding the appointment of the Election Commissioner and deadlock emerges, the matter is referred to the parliamentary committee. The same will happen in the case of NAB chairman’s appointment. Is the addition of parliamentary committee in the NAB law really frustrated them,” he questioned while recalling the opposition’s previous demand of closing down the anti-graft watchdog.
He believed the amendments in the NAB law are comprehensive to strengthen the NAB and fast-track the ongoing accountability process in line with the parliamentary norms.
Instead of making the NAB Amendment Ordinance, its legal nitty-gritty, let the Parliament decide its fate.