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ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties in Parliament and premier lawyers' bodies have expressed disappointment over National Accountability Bureau (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and decided to challenge it in court.

Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah said that his party is in consultation with opposition political parties under the umbrella of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to use all legal options, including challenging the NAB Ordinance in a court of law.

He further stated that the PML-N has decided to give the government a tough time over the NAB ordinance, adding the party will also try to ensure that the entire Opposition remains on the same page on this matter. "We will try that the Opposition stands united for this protest," he added.

A senior PML-N leader, on condition of anonymity, told Business Recorder that the issue was discussed in detail during a meeting between Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief and PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif at the latter's Lahore residence on Saturday.

The source further said that the two leaders held detailed deliberations on the NAB ordinance and agreed to continue consultations with other opposition parties and take every legal option to challenge the ordinance.

Ordinance promulgated by President: Accountability law undergoes major overhaul

"The legal amendments brought through the ordinance indicate distrust in Parliament and is an unconstitutional and undemocratic way. This is an attack not only on Parliament, but also on the judiciary," the PML-N president reportedly stated while talking to the JUI-F chief; and accused the government of making an effort to snatch the constitutional freedom of institutions through the ordinance.

Shehbaz Sharif further stated, as per the source, that 18 major amendments to the already controversial NAB law is an attempt by the government to escape accountability. "The 'black ordinance' is a step towards establishing absolute dictatorship by strangulating democracy in the country," the PML-N president further said.

Secretary General Pakistan People Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) Farhatullah Babar said, "We are consulting with our legal team and on Monday in a meeting to be chaired by Bilawal Bhutto, will finalise on future course of action on the Ordinance."

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have expressed grave disappointment at the promulgation of NAB Amendment Ordinance; and declared that issuance of an ordinance that materially changes the accountability law is nothing but an attempt to undermine the authority of the Parliament.

PBC further contended that the amendment allowing the incumbent Chairman, NAB to continue in his office is devoid of any merit, and is person-specific amendment to boot which is in derogation of settled law and not acceptable. Appointment of officers as judges of accountability courts, at lucrative packages, appears to be an attempt to encroach on the independence of the judiciary.

Law minister explains amendments

The Pakistan Bar Council in consultation with other Bar bodies will announce its future course of action against this draconian Law, so stated Latif Afridi President SCBA, adding that on October 15 they would decide about filing of petition against the Ordinance.

On October 6, President Arif Alvi promulgated National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, under which NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal will continue to serve till a new chairman is appointed.

A petition was filed on Saturday in the Lahore High Court challenging the newly promulgated NAB Ordinance 2021.The petitioner has made the federal government and others respondents in the case.

The petitioner maintains that the NAB Amendment Ordinance contravenes the judgments of the higher judiciary and an ordinance could not be promulgated in the presence of parliament adding that legislation is the mandate of parliament. His prayer to the high court is to declare the NAB ordinance "unconstitutional and unlawful".

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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