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ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 can be abolished through a simple majority of the members of Parliament, said the legal experts.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on April 12 said the newly-elected government, led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif, can dissolve the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and hold its employees accountable. Many PPP and PML-N members of parliament had termed the ordinance as “political vendetta” and “an attempt to usurp the powers of the judiciary” but only when in opposition.

Former Attorney General and NAB Prosecutor Irfan Qadir said National Accountability Ordinance 1999 was saved and protected in Article 270 and Article 268 of the constitution. He; however, stated if the PML-N coalition wants to abolish the NAB Ordinance then it can be done through an Act of the Parliament by a simple majority present in the House at the time. The coalition government has the required majority to pass the law to abolish the NAB Ordinance 1999.

Barrister Ali Saif, who was a member of the committee which had framed the NAO 1999, said the present government has a majority in the National Assembly and the Senate and it can pass a bill to dissolve the NAB law.

No compromise on accountability: Maryam

An official of NAB, on the condition of anonymity, said the media reports about the abolishment of NAB has caused fear in NAB employees, adding that the Bureau has not yet officially been intimated about its dissolution and therefore Bureau staff are working on their assignments.

If NAB is dissolved then as per law permanent employees of NAB will be transferred to relevant departments like the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), police, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), etc, while the employees working on a contract basis will be dealt with as per their contract agreement.

National Accountability Ordinance was enacted on 16 November 1999 to provide for setting up National Accountability Bureau in order to eradicate corruption and corrupt practices and hold accountable all those persons accused of such practices and matters ancillary thereto. However, later it was severely criticized by the judiciary and politicians against whom cases were registered for selecting cases for investigation in a partisan manner. The Supreme Court judges in a number of cases have ruled that National Accountability Bureau had violated the rights to a fair trial and due process in the arrest of opposition leaders. President Dr Arif Alvi on October 6, 2021, promulgated the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 paving the way for the continuation of the incumbent Chairman Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal on the post till the appointment of a new chairman of NAB.

According to the ordinance, the president will appoint the chairman of NAB in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. Under the promulgated ordinance, the new NAB chairman will be appointed for a period of four years and his term may be extendable with the procedure for re-appointment of chairman NAB the same as before.

Less than a month after the promulgation of this ordinance, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on 1st November made further amendments to the ordinance notably the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 with the powers of removing a NAB chairman withdrawn from the Supreme Judicial Council and vested in the President.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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