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ISLAMABAD: The extension of the term of Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) through an ordinance would violate the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and create a crisis as the validity of an ordinance is four months while under the law the chairman is appointed for four years.

This was the consensus of legal experts on an anecdotal survey carried out by this correspondent.

President Sindh High Bar Association Salahuddin Ahmed said an ordinance has a limited life, adding that if chairman NAB's term is extended through an Ordinance it would not only be illegal but also damage the credibility of the anti-graft watchdog.

He further said the NAB chairman as per the constitution is to be appointed after meaningful consultation between the Leader of Opposition and the Leader of the House but if his term is extended through an ordinance without parliament first approving the amendment in the NAB law then a crisis can emerge.

The government has proposed to omit the word "non-extendable" from clause (i) of sub-section (b) of Section 6 National Accountability Ordinance 1999 that pertains to the tenure of the NAB chairman that is currently four years.

It is also being suggested that an extension in the tenures of the NAB deputy chairman and the prosecutor general of accountability, appointed for three years each, be allowed by removing the word "non-extendable" from Sections 7 and 8.

Barrister Umer Gilani, who is representing a PML-N leader before Islamabad High Court in a petition challenging the promulgation of ordinances by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government said there are a number of Supreme Court judgments which disallow person-specific laws, adding if the government extends NAB chairman tenure through an ordinance then the courts will set it aside.

He stated that ordinance-making power has been persistently abused by successive governments. "More than 2,500 ordinances have been promulgated by the Presidents of Pakistan since 1947. This practice, which amounts to a transgression by the executive into the legislature's domain, is continuing even today."

Barrister Gilani further contended that none of the ordinances can be considered as emergency legislation as Article 89 of the Constitution specifically stipulates that the exercise of Ordinance-making power is to be exercised only when responding to an emergency situation (such as war, famine, epidemic or rebellion) which arises after the prorogation of one session of Parliament and where waiting for the next session would cause irreparable loss to the people of Pakistan.

He further stated that passing an ordinance given the pendency of his petition shows that the trend of issuing ordinances violative of the spirit of the constitution is continuing.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government appointed Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal as chairman of the anti-graft body in October 2017 after reaching a consensus with the then Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (PPP leader Khursheed Shah).

The incumbent Chairman NAB, Justice (R) Javed Iqbal, will complete his 'non-extendible' four-year term on October 8 with no sign of the initiation of a process of consultation between the prime minister and leader of the opposition to pick his successor.

There is still no word from the government on whether it intends to continue with Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal or wants a new NAB chief. According to reports, the government could issue an ordinance to extend the tenure of Javed Iqbal as it did in the case of the prosecutor general NAB.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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