Former Pakistani Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressed the Supreme Court on Saturday to challenge the Coalition Government’s recent amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, saying they will ‘virtually eliminate all crimes white collar work committed by a public office holder”.
The changes were criticized by Imran and his party, with the PTI chairman saying the move would destroy the country. The ruling coalition, however, maintained that corruption cases against the PML-N leadership would continue, Dawn reports.
The bill, along with the one on electoral reforms, was passed by the National Assembly and the Senate last month. After it was approved by both houses, the President’s assent was needed for it to become law.
In the petition filed today, the ex-Prime Minister named the Federation of Pakistan through its Law and Justice Division Secretary and the NAB through its Chairman as defendants in the ‘affair.
Most of the changes made to NAB, he argued, were person-specific. “As such, it is fair and just to protect the constitutional and fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.
“The NAB may be requested to provide details of all such cases which concern prominent and influential holders of public office, in particular with regard to cases relating to the offenses of possession of property (movable and immovable) without resources”, indicates the petition.
He added that the amendment cedes the president’s right to appoint the chairman of the body to the government who “shall maneuver through the majority of public office holders to assume control and influence the impartiality of the president of NAB.”
Imran added: “Accountability for political actions takes place at election time and depends on laws that guarantee free and fair elections; accountability for legal or administrative acts is accessible to the people through judicial review and depends on the existence of a free, fair and independent judiciary; while liability for the functions exercised by the elected representatives of the people in their fiduciary capacity, which in fact pervades all categories, is only possible where the law specifically provides for such liability.
He warned that making the Accountability Act “weak and ineffective” was a serious violation of the Constitution and stressed that the people of Pakistan had the right to hold their elected representatives accountable for their fiduciary actions.
The NAB (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 states that the vice president of the NAB, who will be appointed by the federal government, would become the acting chairman of the office at the end of the president’s term.
The bill also reduced the four-year terms of the NAB president and the office’s attorney general to three years. After approval of the law, NAB will not be able to act on federal, state or local tax matters. Additionally, the regulatory bodies operating in the country have also been placed outside the domain of the NAB.
It states that “all pending investigations, inquiries, trials or proceedings under this Ordinance, relating to persons or transactions…shall be transferred to the authorities, departments and courts concerned under the respective laws”.
It also set a three-year term for the judges of the courts of responsibility. It will also require the courts to decide a case within one year. Under the proposed law, it has been made mandatory for the NAB to ensure the availability of evidence against a defendant prior to arrest.
According to one of the main amendments, the law “shall be deemed to have taken effect on the coming into force of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999”.
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