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ISLAMABAD: The country’s top bureaucracy has proposed the government to scrap “draconian” National Accountability Bureau (NAB) since it is beyond reform, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

Sharing details of discussion about the NAB on May 17, 2022, the sources said, Minister for Law & Justice, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar highlighted that the National Accountably (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 was set to expire on June 02, 2022, and under the Constitution it could not be extended any further. It was; therefore, an opportune time to revisit the amendments, as the NAB Ordinance had been used to intimidate bureaucracy, persecute political opposition and harass business community.

The members were unanimous in observing that the NAB had only served as a tool for harassment rather than accountability. The Bureau had been used to victimize the political opposition, intimidate the bureaucracy and badger the business community.

The Cabinet was informed that the NAB had serious capacity issues and allegedly had been guilty of frequent human rights violations.

Mega corruption cases: NAB chairman reviews emerging updates

The treatment meted out to the politicians, civil servants and eminent businessmen by the NAB officers was extremely tormenting and demeaning. There were even reports of these officers bragging about humiliating the prominent personalities in private gatherings.

Some of the members argued that in presence of anti-corruption entities in the provinces, and FIA at the federal level, there was no need for a supra-accountability body and, therefore, NAB should be abolished.

Citing CBI of India as an effective example to investigate corruption cases, it was argued that there was no reason that FIA could not emulate it. A suggestion was extended that a Commission be constituted to probe the excesses, injustices and human rights violations committed by NAB, as well as, the loss it caused to the national exchequer.

While there was a complete consensus on degeneration of NAB as an institution, its persistent highhandedness and frequent human rights violation, the members had difference in opinion on the way forward. Some of the members argued that in presence of agencies, both at the provincial and federal level, to deal with corruption cases the NAB was a redundant body and should be abolished. However, others who favoured retention of NAB as an institution advocated that the law should be holistically revisited and draconian clauses be amended after their examination at the touchstone of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

On being asked by the Prime Minister to give his views on the issue of NAB, the Secretary Cabinet, Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera, stated that the issue had been discussed at length in the Secretaries’ Committee with the intent to support the government in policymaking and implementation, and to quicken the decision-making process.

He highlighted that prompt decision-making can only take place in a fair and congenial environment, free of unnecessary harassment and retribution. While the civil servants were fully supportive of fair and transparent accountability, unfortunately, the Bureau had not only been questioning the decisions taken in good faith without any proof of financial corruption but also those made by the collective wisdom of the cabinet and its Committees.

Such indifference towards Executive Authorities had exposed the civil servants to palpable risk. In this backdrop, the Secretaries Committee had formulated its recommendations for amendments in the NAB law, which were submitted to the former Prime Minister. He offered to resubmit the recommendations to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Seven federal secretaries present in the cabinet meeting were also given an opportunity by the Prime Minister to express their views. There was consensus amongst them that the decision-making had been stymied and there should be protection against the actions taken in earnest.

Some of the representatives of bureaucracy also supported abolishing NAB, since they felt that the institution was beyond reform, while others backed the proposal for constituting a Committee, having representation of businessmen, bankers, lawyers and bureaucracy, to review and amend the NAB law.

After detailed discussion, the Cabinet decided that any necessary amendments/ improvements in the NAB Ordinance, already tabled in the Parliament may be considered at this stage. The Minister for Law & Justice may conduct necessary consultation with Cabinet members and reach out to eminent businessmen, bankers, jurists, human rights experts, and other stakeholders before firming up their recommendations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Khwaja May 25, 2022 12:08pm
A country with deep rooted and corrupted institutional framework only warrants further strengthening of a single, independent anti corruption apex body for a decade at least. Judiciary must take cognisance of any act to undermine such a noble intent. This is disastrous for Pakistan to allow tainted individuals guised as honest law makers to keep at bay at the behest of foreign agenda that has set it's mark over past 75 years. It's time to break the chains under a sustained strategy backed by the military establishment who needs to distance itself from NAB too.
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