Amid opposition protest Senate passes NAB amendment bill

Our Correspondent
Friday, Aug 05, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Thursday adopted the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill amidst a massive protest by the opposition that alleged the government wanted to cripple the anti-graft body to facilitate its leadership.

However, the government vehemently rejected these allegations and stressed that the amendments were in the public interest, and therefore, needed to be adopted the same day as the House resumed after a hiatus of two days.

The opposition began the protest in the House when Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan moved a motion seeking suspension of rules for introducing the bill, as the opposition members chanted ‘no, no’ and thumped desks to impede the process. Amidst mayhem, three amendments proposed by the JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad were rejected by a majority vote.

Rising on his seat, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz asserted the clear intent of the bill was to make the NAB a toothless organisation, adding that it was being done by a government facing serious corruption charges, as 60 percent of its cabinet members were on bail.

The legislator alleged the incumbent coalition government had no moral justification to enact a legislation that will directly benefit it, vociferously announcing to oppose it tooth and nail.

“After the passage of the bill, NAB will have no jurisdiction to proceed against any corruption of less than Rs500 million. If this is the standard, then release all the prisoners from jails who committed corruption less than that,” he said.

Shibli was joined by the JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed who contended that the bill was proposed to come into effect from 1999, elaborating that a criminal law cannot be given a retrospective effect.

Furthermore, Ahmed clarified that under an amendment, NAB would not be able to act against those who whiten their black money through amnesty schemes as this would certainly provide a back door to the unscrupulous mafias, thieves and dacoits.

However, Shahadat Awan claimed that he could prove these amendments were being made in the public interest. Nonetheless, the opposition senators paid no heed to the minister’s clarification and rose on their seats after the voice vote and chanted vociferous slogans and gathered around the Senate Chairman’s podium and threw torn copies of the agenda. After aptly registering their protest, the opposition senators stormed out of the House.

The government and the opposition’s fresh tug of war on the recent verdict of the Election Commission of Pakistan in the PTI foreign funding case also made its way into the House. Ex-Chairman Senate and the PPP stalwart, Mian Raza Rabbani said that the Election Commission in its verdict had ruled that the PTI received funding from prohibited sources. He pointed out that the PTI received funds from over 350 foreign companies and continues to hide several other accounts.

Rabbani maintained it was for the government to choose between the legal and constitutional paths with reference to the question whether the government will file a reference seeking a ban on PTI under Article 17, or otherwise.

As a senior constitutional expert himself, he contended, that in his personal view, the government should duly proceed against Imran Khan under Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution for grossly signing inaccurate certificates with annual statements of assets of the party for five consecutive years.

He remarked, “You can make a mistake once or twice but not for four or five years in a row. There should also be criminal investigations against PTI leaders who managed hidden and disowned accounts.’’

Responding to Rabbani’s speech, PTI’s Senator from Lahore Ejaz Chaudhry criticised the ECP’s decision and regretted that several overseas Pakistanis have wrongly been shown as foreigners in it, whereas Nawaz Sharif had received funds from Osama Bin Laden to dislodge Benazir Bhutto’s government.

PPP Senator from Sindh Nisar Khoro came hard on PTI for insisting that the foreign funding cases against all the parties should have been decided together. It is pertinent to note that the case against the PTI was filed in November 2014, while against the PPP and PML-N it was filed in 2018.

Khoro also rejected PTI’s allegations against the chief election commissioner of being biased and politically motivated. The PPP senator reminded the House that the chief election commissioner was appointed by the PTI itself. The Senate will meet again on Friday at 10:30am.