Senate panel adopts NAB laws amendment bill

ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Thursday unanimously approved the opposition’s bill seeking amendment in the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 (NAO) to clip wings of the top anti-graft watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The bill suggests withdrawing NAB chairman’s authority to issue arrest orders and to make arrests during investigation. NAB would not be taking action against any alleged corruption of Rs500m or less and its officers will not leak any information to media until a reference is filed.

The bill suggests holding a NAB officer found involved in make wrong allegations or investigation accountable. NAB chairman will also not be able to approve plea bargain whose approval would have to be sought from an accountability court.

Discussing the accountability bill, Senator Farooq H Naek said NAB should only investigate the matter and file reference before the court while the prosecution should be done under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

He said NAB should also not make public any investigation unless a reference is filed in a court. He said that such investigations should not be shared with media as media trials harm reputation of accused.

Quoting a legal term, he said everyone charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. “NAB should have to be barred from such practices by making such amendments.”

The committee discussed and deferred the constitution amendment bill 2019 introduced by 19 senators on September 2 for increase in the National Assembly and provincial assembly seats of Balochistan based on its area.

Senator Sarfaraz Bhugti said population must cease to be the criterion to determine seats in the national and provincial legislatures. He laid stress on changing this principle and introducing a mechanism that ensures length and breadth of a constituency to determine number of seats.

He said with the merger of former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) the NA and provincial assembly seats of the province have increased and now number of seats from Balochistan should also be increased.

Senator Mir Kabeer Shahi was of the view that an MNA’s constituency in Punjab province consist of 357 square kilometres whereas in Balochistan a constituency expands over 29,000 square km.  “This makes it difficult for MNAs to perform duties in the province,” he added.

Committee Chairman Senator Javed Abbasi said such policy should be adopted nationwide.

Farooq H Naek was of the view that there were many lacunae in the bill which required several amendments in different articles.  The committee directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to present its opinion on the bill in three weeks.

Discussing the constitution amendment bill 2019 (amendment article 51 and 106) that pertain to giving central and southern Punjab, the status of separate provinces, Senator Bahramand Tangi said in 2015 this bill was approved by the Senate with majority vote.

He said it was also the part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) manifesto during the general elections. “However, no progress has been made in this regard despite passage of several months,” he added.

Naek said according to Article 239 Section 4, to change the status of any province, prior approval of the concerned provincial assembly is imperative. The Ministry of Law secretary said any part of the constitution may be changed by the parliament.

Taking up the matter of a sit-in being staged by the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) employees, the committee decided to summon the affected employees to determine to know their problems.


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